The nice thing to know is that the sky is not falling.
January sales figures were announced at the beginning of last week's NADA convention in Las Vegas, and it looked to all the world as though the year was taking off like a barnburner.
Everyone was caught off guard by the good sales numbers, but no one expects this year to be a walk in the park. It's going to be tough.
Oldsmobile dealers were hoping for some sort of breakthrough in their tussle with General Motors, but it didn't happen. Both sides seem to be getting more entrenched, and it wouldn't surprise me if the whole mess ends up in court.
There seems to be a lot more conversation over at Ford, and the dialogue seems to be good. Dealers aren't that happy, but they are glad to be able to keep discussing what everyone wants, and it's probably going to be settled.
Meanwhile, there seems to be a lot of nervousness at the Chrysler group. The dealers are not happy and, just like Chrysler's suppliers, they are unsure about what lies ahead. If any group of dealers knows about adversity, it has to be the Chrysler dealers. Over the years they have seen just about everything - and then some.
I get the impression that dealers feel a bit more empowered these days. Whether it's because they have the states on their side or because they're a smarter, wiser group of executives, they don't seem ready to put up with all the stuff that they have had to deal with over the years.
Dealers seem, if I dare use the term, a lot more militant. They don't like it, and they're not going to take it any more.
I think that reflects on NADA as well. NADA has a good guy running things this year. Bob Maguire is following in the footsteps of another chairman who has a different but no less effective style. Harold Wells has been looking down the barrel of a rifle all year. Sometimes I wonder whether NADA shouldn't think about a two-year term for its chairman. It would be tough for the dealer's store, but it might make sense for the association.
Generally speaking, the mood was optimistic at NADA. The economy is a question mark, but no one seemed to think that it is going in the tank; it's just a bit of a softening.
The good and the strong franchises seem to keep getting better and stronger. The worry is about the rest. It's a mixed bag at best. But that's why last week was so interesting.