There has been a lot of talk about the new normal in the industry. NADA has a new normal: People who are here are here to work.
After a lot of time on the floor Sunday -- a day when the crowds felt thinner -- the consensus is that the survivors are ready to start making things happen.
Buyers are coming out of their caves. Investors are looking for deals. And technology is on everyone's mind.
"The crowds are smaller than they used to be, but people are doing business," said Harry Wolfington, CEO of Wolfington Group, a company that specializes in dealer staffing and sales. Case in point: During the time we visited his booth, Wolfington closed a deal and started talking about another.
"Those who are here aren't here to play. They're getting after it," he said.
President Tim Lamb and Southeast Region Director Bob Morris of Tim Lamb Group, a dealership sales and acquisition company in Ohio, hope to close 50 deals this year, about three times as many as in a horrific 2009, "when people went into a hole," Lamb said. "Some dealers are seeing the light now and are starting to make money. We get calls every day from large public groups and small guys with one or two stores. Buyers are back."
Morris, who has logged 55,000 miles on his company car since last summer, feels the change. "There isn't enough time in our day now," he said.
Technology is also a big topic this year.
"I'm here to learn, particularly about all of this computerization," Lancaster, Wis., dealer Tod Gillian said Sunday. "Everything now is computerized. I'm 83, a computer idiot. But if you have a dealership that is not computerized, you can forget it. You'll be out of business."
Many folks are figuring that out. This weekend, DealerTrack, the dealer management system maker, ran into staffing problems because of the demand for demos.
"We had to bring people in," said CEO Mark O'Neil, who flew five additional salespeople in from Salt Lake City because of demands at the company's exhibit.
This year won't be remembered as the biggest NADA convention.
But it did get better.