LEADBOX Recap: CADA Summit and Toronto Auto Show

By Renold Liu

CADA Summit and Toronto Auto Show: A Must-Attend Event 

More and more, the signs that Covid-19 and the inventory crisis are in our rearview mirrors are more prevalent. The Toronto International Auto Show is an excellent example of this reality. With record attendance, even in the face of a snowstorm, the show did not disappoint. Ian Cruickshank, President and CEO of LEADBOX, attended the week’s events and was happy to share his thoughts and takeaways. 

Let’s cover a few of the ancillary and pre-show events. This year’s most notable and consistent was the CADA Summit held on February 14th at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. The agenda and content were on point from the beginning to its glorious Top Gear finale.

CADA Summit Highlights

We spent the day hearing from many of the senior leaders from OEMs, including Hyundai, Kia, Porsche, VW, Subaru, Mazda, and Ford. We also heard from the newest inductees into the CADA Laureate, including Andrew Ojamae (from AutoIQ), Hughes Carle (from Carle Ford) and Peter MacDonald (from his self-named group in PEI). The core insight was that a small group and a larger group can all do outstanding business with the right amount of tenacity and integrity.

There was also much talk about the future of EVs and electric infrastructure from both dealers and manufacturers, as well as three panellists, focused on improving EV infrastructure: Josie Erzetic, President and CEO of Electrical Safety Authority; Andrea Nuesser, Director, Customer Strategy & Experience of Hydro One; and Simon Ouellette, CEO of Charge Hub.

One of my favourite talks was from the entertaining and massively experienced Michael Dunne, CEO of Dunne Insights, entrepreneur, author, and host of the popular Driving with Dunne podcasts. Dunne provided a fantastic discussion of the potential impact of the Chinese Auto market. It was fascinating to hear about his experiences working in the Chinese automotive industry over the last three decades. Most specifically, the current and impressive impact the Chinese are having on expanding the global EV market. The strategy of winning the countryside to win the cities is one to consider closely, as many of the Chinese manufacturers focus on Western markets outside North America in order to eventually squeeze into our local markets. Patience and long-term planning are evident, and there is little sign of slowing the process.

The Retail Profit’s Doug Stevens shared some interesting thoughts on the increasing impact of AI in retail and the potential implications in automotive retail. The core message, as I’ve personally shared before, is to get into AI as quickly as possible and to experiment and learn as much as possible because it’s already moving fast. Those who do not explore or invest will be left behind.

To round things out at the CADA event, Richard Hammond, my favourite host from BBC’s “Top Gear,” joined the MC for an entertaining fireside chat.

Thursday was the Automotive News Canadian event with content similar to the prior day’s events. It’s no surprise that EVs and AI are the top two topics on everyone’s mind. Electric Vehicles also played a feature role at the Show, as noted below.

Toronto Auto Show Highlights 

The Auto Show Gala is always a great event with everyone at their best, some in black tie, most in suits with a few gowns and cocktail dresses. All of us are there to catch up with friends, old and new, and to see the year’s most exciting new cars. Mercedes Benz and BMW were absent this year, no doubt preferring to focus their investments on digital advertising. But, there were a few newcomers, with VinFast and Ineos showing for the first time.

Also, for the first time at the Toronto Auto Show was Tesla and they had their Cyber Truck in a very prominent place (with its doors locked). Elon’s toy truck was clearly the most photographed vehicle at the show. For a vast number of dealers that typically speak ill of the Tesla business, there was no love lost for the Cyber Truck. Getting in on the action seemed to be the right thing to do. 

Aside from a few more great chats with OEMs, Dealers, and fellow vendors – there were also Barenaked Ladies, yup, the band. They put on a great show for many adoring fans, and I can still remember seeing them in concert at small venues in Montréal.

Until Next Year

As the Toronto International Auto Show drew to a close, it was a tangible indicator that the shadows of COVID-19 and the inventory crisis were receding. With record attendance despite a snowstorm, the event exemplified a resurgence in consumer interest and industry optimism. Ian Cruickshank, President and CEO of LEADBOX, highlights a collective enthusiasm for the future of automotive innovation and excellence.

Thanks for a great event – til next time!