MCLEAN, Va. -- Now that U.S. automakers are receiving emergency bridge loans to weather the economic crisis, attention has shifted to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Exposition in New Orleans Jan. 24-27, when dealers will meet face-to-face with their automakers’ top leadership.

"As the automakers and the federal government consider ways to restructure the domestic auto industry as a condition to receiving loan installments, here's an important fact to note," says NADA Chairman Annette Sykora, owner of two domestic-brand dealerships near Lubbock, Texas. "It is not the number of dealerships that General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have in operation today that forced them to seek emergency bridge loans. Shrinking the dealer network should not be a condition to restructure the domestic auto industry.

"Dealerships are not owned by the automakers," Sykora added. "Dealers own their franchises and have invested millions of dollars of their own in land, buildings, improvements, personnel, high-tech equipment and advertising to sell and service vehicles."

To address this and other issues, NADA's Industry Relations group announced that 21 separate automaker franchise meetings have been confirmed at the convention. GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner; Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA; Jim Press, Chrysler vice chairman and president; and Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., are all planning to attend. Mulally will deliver the keynote address on Saturday, Jan. 24, following Sykora’s remarks.

NADA has also assembled a lineup of leading political figures and inspirational speakers—including former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton—to deliver remarks Monday, Jan. 26 during its 92nd annual convention.

Archie Manning (Saturday, Jan. 24), former New Orleans Saints quarterback and NFL’s Most Valuable Player, and Christopher Gardner (Sunday, Jan. 25), the inspiration for the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” will offer motivational and inspirational talks. Incoming NADA Chairman John McEleney will outline his priorities Monday, Jan. 26 for the coming year of economic uncertainty.

"This year's lineup is one of the most impressive in NADA’s history," says NADA Convention Chairman Jeff Carlson. "In line with this year's convention theme of 'Committed to Community,' former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton join us in highlighting nationwide efforts to give back to the New Orleans community after the ravaging hurricanes."

Last year, the NADA Charitable Foundation made a $400,000 contribution to the Brees Dream Foundation—founded by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wife, Brittany — to help rebuild the athletic fields at the Lusher Charter School, the largest public high school in heart of New Orleans.