Event organizers say about 27,000 people attended this year's event, down about 10 percent from the 2004 show, but higher than NACE's final two appearances (in 2002 and 2003) outside of Las Vegas and Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. About one in 13 of this year's attendees came over to NACE from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) or Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) trade shows, which attracted more 130,000 people to the other end of the Las Vegas strip.
The largest paint manufacturers again opted to pass on joining the 479 other companies exhibiting in the 178,600-square-foot NACE trade show, but each was clearly involved with the event. Sherwin-Williams, for example, opened the doors of the House of Blues Music Hall in the Mandalay Bay Resort for a NACE welcome party - the first in several years - which attracted 1,300 NACE attendees for free food and music. Akzo Nobel hosted a lunch and guest speaker, and BASF sponsored the event's shuttle buses and offered six technical and management seminars.
But DuPont Performance Coatings perhaps scored the biggest coup by clearly surprising the 3,000 people at the NACE opening session with a brief appearance by NASCAR's Jeff Gordon.
"Unfortunately, I've learned a little too much about collisions myself this season," Gordon said, prior to introducing Giuliani.
Rudy Giuliani discusses leadership
As he did in his 2002 book, Giuliani focused in his keynote address on the qualities necessary to be a successful leader. The first of the six principles he discussed in his NACE keynote address was the importance of being a person of conviction.
"You have to have a set of beliefs," he said. "You have to have goals. A person leads by having a vision. You have to be able to look at where you want to be in the future, then figure out how to go from where you are, to where the ideal is."
He said that whether you agreed with President Ronald Reagan's politics or not, Reagan was clearly driven by some core beliefs, such as the belief in smaller government and the end of Communism. Reagan stuck with those beliefs, Giuliani said, and changed the world more than any President since Franklin Roosevelt.
Two other traits leaders share are a positive attitude and courage.
"People are drawn to optimists," Giuliani said. And courage, he said, is not the opposite of fear but just the will to react and respond in spite of that fear. He cited the example of a firefighter who bravely plunged into a frigid river to save a drowning person - yet was stricken with fear when asked to speak about his actions at a later press conference. The firefighter had trained and prepared to take courageous actions despite the risk, Giuliani said, but hadn't trained or prepared for speaking publicly. That points out another key action leaders must take: preparation
"The more you practice, the better you will be," Giuliani said. "No matter what you do, something unanticipated will happen. But if you prepare for everything you can anticipate, you'll be prepared for the unanticipated. It will just be a variation of what you're prepared for."
There was no way, for example, that he could have prepared fully for the events of September 11, 2001, when he was mayor of New York City. But the City had practiced plans in place for dealing with other types of catastrophic events, and that provided the basis for dealing with the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The fifth trait Giuliani said leaders share is the belief in teamwork.
"Nobody achieves anything in life without the help of other people," he said. "Sometimes leaders forget that because they become isolated."
Successful leaders first assess their own strengths and weaknesses, he said. They determine what it is they themselves do not do well, and find those who are better at it to join their team.
Lastly, he said, leaders communicate. They share their beliefs and goals. They teach, coach and motivate.
"You have to get your ideas from your mind, your heart and your experience, and express them to other people," he said.
Kottschade shares view of the industry
Geralynn Kottschade said as she prepared for her speech as chairman of this year's NACE, she realized that the first year NACE was held - 1983 - was also her first year in the industry. She focused her speech on the changes she's seen in the industry in the past 23 years.
Kottschade is the vide president of Jerry's Body Shop in Mankato, Minnesota, a business she operates with her husband, Jerry, who served as NACE chairman for three years in the early 1990s.
In her speech, Kottschade spoke of the great strides that have been made to reduce the bottlenecks shops struggled with in the 1980s, primarily in the paint shop and with parts ordering. She said shops then wanted to be able to write their own estimates - something they now do, although those estimates are closely scrutinized by insurers.
"But such scrutiny is a good thing, as it has helped us become more effective and efficient in the way we run our businesses," she said.
In a year when the estimating database providers have been widely criticized by repairers who perceive the providers as changing their systems to accommodate insurers, Kottschade praised the companies for making estimating far more productive than it was in the early 1980s, and for tackling the problem of shops having to rekey estimates.
Kottschade reserved her only negative comments during her speech for the issue of the non-OEM parts.
"Since 1983, the arena of aftermarket parts has garnered the least improvement over the 23 year span," she said. The class action lawsuit against State Farm temporarily reduced the drive by some insurers to require usage of the parts, she said, but was never about "long-term public policy with regard to aftermarket parts."
"This case did not resolve the problems collision repairers face day to day with parts that don't meet the standards we demand, along with pressure to use certain parts we feel are substandard," she said, drawing applause from the audience. "Until we reach a point where the consumer is informed about the type of parts used in the repair and enabled to choose whether it's aftermarket, OEM or recycled, the parts issue will continue to be of concern."
Without naming Farmers Insurance, she said that an insurer earlier this year was warning consumers about shops accepting money to replace airbags but not doing so, using repaired or replaced airbag covers without installing a new airbag module.
"As an industry, we cannot let this happen," Kottschade said. "We have a moral obligation to properly repair any airbag. We must prove this insurer wrong."
Lastly, Kottschade urged the industry to "stay focused."
"Every day we have distractions, some within our control and some out of our control," she said. "There are problems we can fix, and some we just need to deal with. But this week should be about identifying our challenges, concentrating on those we have the power to change, and start proceeding with a plan to make the wrongs a right. We must also develop a plan of action on how to find ways of dealing in a professional, confident manner with what we cannot change. It is vital for maintaining our own independence. There are real ugly things going on in our industry and every industry. And though we cannot ignore what's going on, we can avoid being part of the problem."
Kottschade will again serve as chairman of NACE in 2006, when the event returns to the Mandalay Bay Convention next November 2-4.
John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.