The 2024 J.D. Power Auto Summit, set for Feb. 1 in Las Vegas just ahead of NADA Show 2024, will arm attendees with a better view of how to attack and stay competitive in today’s ever-changing auto industry, event organizers say.

Auto Remarketing spoke with Doug Betts, president of the automotive division of J.D. Power, who has been in that position nearly seven years, for a preview of the event.

The J.D. Power Auto Summit began as a dealer roundtable in San Francisco in 1985, and was hosted just before the NADA convention. Over the past three decades, the event has evolved into the popular destination for NADA attendees that it is today.

“It’s convenient to have the event just ahead of NADA, because all the different brands and OEMs are having their meetings with their dealer networks and talking about the future and products that are coming and things like that,” said Betts.

The dealers are in town, and they are looking for information to ramp up their business.

Back in the 1980s, Betts said J.D. Power was known mostly as a research and benchmarking business.

“I would say since then, that’s just a small part of our business now,” said Betts. “Now, we’re mostly what’s called a data and analytics company.”

For the auto industry, this means data like sales numbers, transaction prices, vehicle valuations, vehicle specifications and more.

For instance, “what (vehicle) configurations are sold and how, how fast do they sell and how much profit they sell for,” said Betts. “So, we really have a lot of information about which version of the vehicle is the right version for a certain location, or in a certain part of town, or in a certain city.

“We’ve got just tons of data that can be very helpful for both the auto industry, the OEMs themselves and for the dealers who are ordering cars and selling their cars,” he said.

This data translates well into sessions at the J.D. Power Auto Summit that are impactful to businesses across the auto industry.

OEM topics on tap

During the Summit, a variety of top trends in the industry are explored through different sessions. Every year, the Summit takes an in-depth look at specific OEMs going through changes or disruptions in the industry.

Stellantis’ Dodge brand has been in the hot seat lately as dealers and consumers look to OEM leadership to further modernize the brand.

During the OEM Exclusive session focusing on Stellantis, Matt McAlear, senior vice president of Dodge/SRT sales and marketing, will speak to the company’s ongoing evolution and redirection.

Betts said the OEM needs to make a transition, and a pretty dramatic one at that.

“Dodge’s place in the market right now is about big, supercharged V8 engines, and maximum horsepower. And we know as sustainable transportation becomes more important, those vehicles’ path is coming to an end,” said Betts. “So, how are they (Dodge) going to transition?”

Betts sees this session as a great chance for dealers and industry professionals to hear more about Dodge’s plan for the next five years. The OEM has recently announced some products that are electrified, but Betts said the brand still holds to the aforementioned outdated positioning.

“We expect it’s a good chance for him (Stellantis representative) to talk to 700 or 800 representatives of dealers … and a lot of these attendees are representing huge dealer groups, not just individual rooftops.”

In other OEM offerings, the summit will also host Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, on site, for a second OEM Exclusive session during the second half of the Summit. Reuss will speak on GM’s transformation following the auto industry’s “seismic” shift to electric, connected and autonomous vehicles.

What does EV data tell us?

For those interested in driving electric vehicle retail share, a panel at the Summit will explore information stemming from the data set J.D. Power calls its EV Index.

“We’ve merged together 26 different data sets all related to EVs or the comparison between internal combustion and EVs,” said Betts, and this session will pull trends and strategies stemming from this data and more.

“We are basically measuring all of the roadblocks to EV adoption; those things that keep a consumer from switching to an EV, like infrastructure or affordability,” Betts said. “And we’re measuring all those very precisely in a very granular way — all the way down to ZIP-code.”

If you’re a dealer and you’re trying to overcome obstacles to selling EVs, this session is for you, said Betts.

The EV panel at the J.D. Power Summit includes reps from J.D. Power, the government, NADA and more.

Big-picture franchise view

One of the most popular sessions Betts said is the annual Franchise Assessment. This session provides a full-picture view of how each auto brand in the U.S. is performing across consumer ratings, customer loyalty, residual values and EV brand strategy and more.

Betts said the assessment is typically the most popular session for dealers.

“Dealers have a franchise that they represent, and maybe they want to grow and buy another store that is a different brand,” said Betts. “In this segment, we use all of our data, and we walk through every brand that’s out there and talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the brand. We look at our transaction data and talk about the margins. We can see the margin that dealers who sell one brand are making versus another brand.”

During the assessment, speakers will discuss each brand’s progress and plans to transition to EVs, as well.

“If you’re a dealer and you’re investing in a particular brand, if that brand doesn’t do a good job of making this EV transition, you could be left in the dust,” said Betts.

This is an example of a session that Betts said brings all of the J.D. Power data to a topic “that is very interesting for dealers and is a staple of the event.”

Not just a celebrity, but a ‘car guy’

Talk-show host and media personality Jay Leno will also be featured at the Summit the evening of the event. Leno is a self-professed car guy, bringing not only a big name, but also many years of following the auto industry.

“We went through this dark period where everybody said, ‘Oh, you know, kids these days only want to play video games, and they don’t even get their driver’s license. They don’t care about driving,’” said Betts.

Although that may have been the narrative six or seven years ago, Betts contends “it’s over.”

“Celebrity personalities like Jay have brought the next generations into appreciating all the history of the automotive industry, as well as new technology,” said Betts. “It’s really healthy for the industry to have the new generation going to sleep at night dreaming about their first car.”

Why arrive a day early?

Bottom line? Time is money, and any extra time out of the office can impact the dealership. So why should NADA attendees come to Las Vegas a day early?

“It’s a good way to get an overall view of the progress of the industry,” said Betts. “We look at the whole previous year and how it unfolded, as well as the rate of sales and final conclusions for 2023.”

Attendees will be able to see a brand-by-brand view of “who were the winners and losers during 2023,” Betts said.

Further, the team at J.D. Power aims to forecast trends for 2024, “and we have a really good track record of being accurate on that,” said Betts.

Armed with this information, NADA attendees can go into the event with information to plan their conference out as productively as possible.

“After listening to our sessions, if they think they’re going to need better software, or they’re going to need to buy some equipment to sell EVs or whatever it is, they are now really well educated to go out and make some decisions at NADA,” said Betts.