"The personal and professional relationships built and forged at the academy are invaluable," says Allen Phibbs, the academy's senior director. "That's the resounding theme of the feedback we receive from academy graduates."
Academy applicants must be sponsored by a dealer or another academy graduate, and the sponsoring dealership must belong to NADA. To comply with federal antitrust law, the academy does not put students together from competing dealerships.
"Given that students will be discussing dealership financial results, you can see how this criterion is a must," Phibbs says. "Students cannot come from dealerships within a 50-mile radius of each other."
Academy students might have a few years of dealership experience, or a few decades. "Students should have worked in a dealership and understand general operations for at least a year," Phibbs says.
Although some students plan to succeed their parents as dealer principals, Phibbs says, most academy students are currently dealership managers. Student ages, he adds, are "all over the board."
Academy instructors include NADA staff members with expertise in the subjects they teach and substantial dealership experience. Students learn to analyze such things as a dealership's financial statement and parts inventory.
During the week of classes devoted to new-vehicle sales, students take the short trip to Capitol Hill with NADA staff. They meet congressional leaders and discuss industry issues.
During the six to eight weeks between classes, students are assigned homework that includes gathering data from their dealership.
"This is where real self-discovery happens," Phibbs says. "They have to work with their department managers to get the necessary information and begin to evaluate it."
On the last day of class, students invite family members and their sponsors to lunch. Often, that luncheon will feature a dealer, a member of Congress or another academy graduate as guest speaker.
Phibbs says he tells each new group of academy graduates "that their class as it is assembled will never come together that way again. It's special to see the students come together and then stay in touch."