SAN FRANCISCO – Ed Tonkin, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), highlighted several factors that will lead to a strong year in auto retailing, which was the topic of an industry forum held on Feb. 4.

“We’re starting to see some real evidence that things are getting better,” Tonkin said in remarks at the International Automotive Roundtable hosted by J.D. Power and Associates in San Francisco. “And we’re confident that auto manufacturing and retailing will help lead the economic recovery.”

Tonkin said the auto industry is now beginning to stabilize, but it wasn’t long ago when dealers faced many serious issues that put a dent in auto retailing, such as a lack of credit for both dealers and car shoppers, auto sales nearly cut in half and two automaker bankruptcies.

“Everything dealers and NADA accomplished over the past two years puts dealers in a better position for retailing success this year,” Tonkin said. “It’s clear that success in auto retailing isn’t just about making the right moves with your own business. It’s bigger than that. It’s also about making the right moves with the automakers, policy makers, Congress and federal regulators.”

The roundtable was held in conjunction with the 2011 NADA Convention and Expo from Feb. 5-7 at the Moscone Center. Thousands of the nation’s dealers met with their respective automakers at 24 franchise meetings at the convention.

“And now that things are starting to get back to normal, we can finally get back to doing what we do best – selling vehicles one-at-a-time and understanding what consumers want and meeting their needs,” Tonkin said. “The best way to bring buyers to the marketplace is to create great products.”

Many car shoppers are buying or leasing out of “sheer necessity” because the average age of their cars and trucks on the road today is more than 10 years old, he said.

“We’re also seeing more shoppers enter the market because of a growing selection of attractive new cars and trucks, high trade-in values and historically low financing rates,” Tonkin said. “Credit availability is improving, which means we’re able to provide our customers with competitive financing rates.”

An increase in registration numbers for the NADA convention is another indicator that auto retailing and the economy are improving generally, he said.

“Every aspect of the NADA convention is designed to help dealers ‘win big at retailing’—from the franchise meetings, workshop sessions to shopping the Expo floor,” Tonkin said. “Dealer optimism – about their franchises, the economy and sales – is on the rise.”

Click here for Tonkin's full remarks.