The NIADA Convention & Expo wrapped up Thursday evening, and the buzz on the show floor was that things are looking up for independent dealers as the economy rebounds and more consumers enter the market to shop for used vehicles.  The market hasn’t fully returned, however, as inventory challenges remain despite an uptick in turn-in activity driven by new-car sales.

“The economy is getting better, and many of the dealers here at the conference have a positive outlook for their businesses,” said Nicole Daines, associate manager, Advertising Solutions.  “I would say it’s still hard for independent dealers, though, as we still see them going farther, investing more money and spending more time at auctions to acquire inventory than was the case before the recession.”

Buy Here, Pay Here was another hot topic, as more independent dealers target car shoppers who may not qualify for traditional financing.  In one session, BHPH dealer panelists expressed that managing two business models with distinct customer sets is a challenge, but overall they saw it as an opportunity to grow their businesses.  As part of its schedule of events on Thursday, NIADA and the National Alliance of Buy Here, Pay Here Dealers, announced its new BHPH Master Dealer Certification Program, representing an advancement in training and education available for independent dealers today.

Also of note were the many legislative updates, as well as a compelling new documentary produced by NIADA about the history of the used car business, challenges faced by the industry over time and the growth of the NIADA organization thanks to collaborative efforts between association leadership and the organization’s active and dedicated membership.

Finally, on Thursday night at its annual awards dinner, NIADA honored Michael T. D’Andrea of Miracle Motor Mart in Columbus as the winner of the organization’s prestigious National Quality Dealer Award.  The award honors dealers who are committed to quality, excellence, outstanding customer service and to making their community a better place.

Despite continued challenges in the industry, one thing is clear – independent dealers are positive about their business prospects for 2012 and beyond.  Check out this week for the official conference recap coverage.