The 2023 NADA Show in Dallas opened with flair and spectacle.
Early on, I realized the adage that "Everything is bigger in Texas" is (mostly) true. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is massive, with 1 million square feet of exhibit space and 88 meeting rooms among other features, according to the facility's website.
Vendors packed much of it to the gills during the four-day conference, many with multiple-story displays completed with flourishes such as lavish lounge chairs and espresso or juice bars. Salespeople sold new software tools using flashy screens alongside vendors selling everything from analytics to car wash technology, which was re-created down to the giant rotating brushes.
At least one booth sold private planes (!!) marketed to dealership owners, some of whom use them, apparently, to visit their dealership properties. Who knew?
Not to be lost in the shuffle, smaller vendors peddled their offerings, advertising software and services that fill niches, such as helping retailers better move hard-to-sell products. Several architects staffed small but elegant booths showing off their work in photos and drawings. Automakers showed off signature vehicles and technology, too.
It was a reminder that retail technology exists in a vast ecosystem. "Ecosystem" is one of those cliched business jargon words, but it fits here.
Software and related technology are increasingly crucial for dealerships to do their jobs in a 21st-century world where customers demand the ability to shop for vehicles in all sorts of ways, some high-tech, some low-tech and some a combination of both. But it is important for retailers (and new retail technology reporters) to remember that it is only one of many pieces that together fulfill a vast business that plays a crucial role in the U.S. and global economies.
Many of the software vendors at the NADA Show — giants and smaller players alike — argued that they now have the systems that help create more seamless retail transactions and processes at dealerships.
The year 2023 will continue testing whether that is true.