I consider it a huge honour and a privilege to serve as president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA). It’s equally thrilling to serve our association during such a pivotal and groundbreaking year in the retail automobile industry.
In reviewing the past 12 months, I’d describe 2012 as a year of rebounds, transitions, milestones, achievements and successes for our industry.
In February, the Canadian International AutoShow achieved record attendance, with 316,751 visitors over its 10-day run. This signalled a breakout year for the industry, as car sales started off brisk and remained strong throughout the year.
The 2012 AutoShow will be remembered for another milestone. During media day, TADA announced a historic merger with the Ontario Automobile Dealers Association.
The merger was formalized in April and, under the new Trillium banner, our association is now the largest provincial auto dealers association in Canada, representing 1,191 registered new-car dealers.
In February, TADA also hosted its first ever Digital Dealer Conference. The event sold out and it attracted dealer principals, managers, IT personnel and marketers from across the province.
Due to the popularity of the conference in February, three more were hosted in September (London, Toronto and Ottawa), and more are planned for 2013.
I think 2012 certainly ranks as a critical year for new-car dealers and digital technologies. Dealers are gradually realizing the enormous benefits and advantages in embracing online technologies for their businesses.
As far as new automotive technologies are concerned, 2012 was a year of sober reckoning for several automakers. At the start of the year, there was still considerable optimism among select automakers that all-electric vehicles would achieve wider acceptance among the car-buying public.
Although all-electric vehicles have advanced tremendously in design and efficiency (and will one day power a majority of automobiles), I believe automakers have realized mass adoption of these vehicles is still years away.
As a result of poor sales in this category, automakers are now revising their forecasts and rethinking their strategies and expectations for all-electric vehicles.
On the sales front, 2012 was definitely a rebound year. Pent-up consumer demand, coupled with historically low interest rates, helped drive auto sales to new highs, from January to December.
Automakers recorded their best October ever this year, which helped drive industry sales up almost 7 per cent from a year earlier. Although December figures aren’t yet available, 2012 could turn out to be a record year for car sales in Canada.
Finally, I think 2012 will be regarded as an important year on the subject of distracted driving. Prior to this year, I would have argued that most motorists in Ontario didn’t take distracted driving seriously.
But this year, there was a greater awareness among motorists, the public, law enforcement agencies, government bodies and insurance companies about the deadly consequences of this unlawful activity.
In October, TADA and the Ontario Provincial Police Association joined forces to launch an awareness campaign highlighting the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.
Although I still see motorists talking on their cellphones without the aid of a hands-free device, and fiddling with other electronic gadgets while they are behind the wheel, I’m hopeful the message of distracted driving is finally sinking in.
It may be years before distracted driving achieves the same level of social approbation as drinking and driving, but it will happen.
All in all, 2012 was a progressive year on many fronts for our industry. Here’s hoping that those positive trends continue in 2013!
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