Thursday, 31 January 2002 17:00

35,000 pack LV convention center, ed programs overflow

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Throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center the 35,000 attendees at last month's NACE seemed to be talking as much about the event itself as they did about the usual industry announcements, speakers and the "good deals" to be had on the trade show floor.

Many people - show organizers, exhibitors and attendees - wondered what impact last fall's terrorist attacks would have on the annual event. Cancellations were few, according to organizers, though the final numbers were mixed. Attendance, as reported by show organizers, was up significantly -by about 5,000 - from last year's 30,750 in Orlando, but still down from its peak of 41,000 in 1997, the last time NACE was held in Las Vegas. Attendance from outside the U.S. dropped from about 14 percent of total attendees to about 9 percent.

The trade show itself also was about 25,000-square-feet smaller than last year with 560 exhibiting companies, forty fewer than last year. Show organizers cited the departure of many 'dot-com' companies that helped make last year's exhibition the largest ever in terms of square feet, though the last time fewer than 600 companies had booths at NACE was in 1994.

Still, exhibitors seemed pleased with the turn-out, with a number commenting that perhaps more than most years, those who attended were there to buy, not just to party.

They came for education as well, if attendance at the event's dozens of training sessions was any indication; a number of sessions had well over 500 attendees.

Perhaps the most surprising and disappointing aspect of the show was the unusual Las Vegas weather: cold and dreary. But the weather certainly didn't seem to bother the 3,500 people who attended comedian Jay Leno's performance on Saturday night, enjoying drinks, hors d'oeuvres and a 45-minute stand-up routine that included jokes about O.J., the Menendez brothers and men's need to maintain possession of the television remote control.
 
State of the industry
 
The opening session featured NACE chairman Chris Dameron, an executive of the True2Form repair chain, who offered his "state of the industry" views.
Dameron said perhaps some of the best news of the year was the industry's success in convincing the information providers not to encrypt data, improving a shop's options for transmitting estimate and other data electronically to insurers or vendors.

He criticized Nationwide's deal with NAPA, saying that by requiring its direct repair shops to purchase hard parts through NAPA at an agreed-upon mark-up is another example of insurers meddling in the business relationships of a shop and its vendors. He criticized Progressive's "Concierge" program, saying it's another attempt to "micro-manage" shops, and that the insurer will make the shop the "scapegoat" when something goes wrong. And he criticized Allstate's purchase of Sterling, calling it a conflict of interest and saying repairers don't sell insurance and insurers shouldn't repair cars.

He urged shops to read direct repair agreements carefully to consider liability issues; to question the integrity of insurers who ask for price concessions from direct repair shops; and to maintain their right to do business without interference.

NACE goes to Dallas in 2002

One other rumor making its rounds at NACE was that the show may become a biennial rather than annual event.

Galen Poss, CEO of of Hanley-Wood Exhibitions, the company that produces the show for the Automotive Service Association (ASA), said that just as "the industry does business every year," NACE will continue to be held every year."

The event returns to Dallas, Texas, December 5-8, and then to Orlando, Fla., in 2003. Beginning in 2004, Las Vegas will host the show every other year, with "off-year" locations to be determined, Poss said.

John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.

 

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