Steven Szakaly, 38, NADA chief economist since October 2013, has overhauled NADA Data, which he called a one-of-a-kind source for auto retail statistics.
NADA Data includes national and state-by-state industry sales, plus detailed dealership statistics, broken out by profit center, based on a sample of dealerships nationwide. The annual publication of NADA Data is eagerly awaited by a variety of interested groups and individuals.
The dealer association has been gathering data since the 1930s, after the Great Depression wiped out a handful of privately owned companies that had been compiling auto retail statistics.
Under Szakaly, NADA Data is updated more often, with more-current statistics available online. Szakaly also completed the switch to online data gathering, replacing paper surveys.
Before joining NADA, Szakaly was corporate economist for Cliffs Natural Resources, an international mining and natural resources company, where he forecast macroeconomic trends and raw materials prices.
Before that, he was an economist and industry analyst for General Motors; an economist for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and an associate economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Szakaly discussed NADA Data with Special Corres-pondent Jim Henry.
Q: Who uses NADA Data besides dealers, regulators and members of the trade press?
A: Besides dealers and industry insiders, we share NADA Data with government agencies -- the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) -- with consultants, and with a lot of used-car dealers, since the data gives insight into the used-car segment. We are effectively the resource for what is going on in automotive retail.
Are state-by-state statistics also in demand?
People from the state level want to know the number of cars that are registered in their state. The data also show the economic impact of auto retail. It's an industry whose jobs pay well. The industry employs a lot of people. There's also tax statistics -- sales tax, payroll tax -- it's an outsized contribution.
When is the annual report available?
We aim to release the data in mid-March or by the end of April.
When do people start asking for the annual update?
I pretty much start hearing in December. Before the year is even over, people start asking me how soon they can see the data. Having said that, we do provide a lot of data -- average dealer profile, a summary -- on a monthly basis, so we're reporting much more often.
Besides reporting more often, what are some other changes?
For the last few years we have been releasing revisions [of past years' data]. The technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and our commitment is to release the best data that's out there. Having started here three years ago, we found three years ago that some of the methods that were being used weren't necessarily the most up to date.
How big is the sample?
To arrive at the average dealership profile, we consolidate results from 2,100 dealerships.
Is the process like that used by the Power Information Network -- "weighting" is applied to a large sample to come up with a national average?
We follow a similar process. Based on 2,100 dealerships out of a total of 18,000, our sample is weighted by brand, by region, by dealership size. It's a sufficient number that we can confidently say we know what the data is, what the data says.