Early registration for the upcoming National Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Expo in Las Vegas indicates attendance is on pace to exceed 20,000 for the first time in four years.

Convention registration is up 20% compared to the same time last year. Exhibit sales are up 30%, with 450 companies exhibiting in more than 500,000 square feet. Six hotels in Las Vegas have already sold out.

"The NADA convention is considered the automotive industry event of the year. It's also considered a bellwether of the economy," said Stephen R. Pitt, NADA vice president of conventions and expositions. "We haven't seen these kinds of numbers since before the economic collapse in 2008. But now the economy is on the mend. New-car and -truck sales are steadily improving, and dealers are preparing for brighter days ahead."

This is the first time the American Truck Dealers Convention & Expo will be held in conjunction with the NADA convention, which takes place Feb. 3-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Convention Highlights

Industry keynote speakers for the 2012 NADA-ATD convention, include:

- Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A.;
- NADA Chairman Stephen W. Wade;
- NADA Vice Chairman William P. Underriner;
- ATD Chairman Kyle Treadway; and,
- Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.

The NADA-ATD convention includes 38 dealer franchise meetings. Seven automakers -- Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Kia Motors America, Mitsubishi Motors North America and Subaru of America -- will also exhibiting.

For car and truck dealers and their managers, NADA University is offering more than 50 workshops at the convention with two full workshop sessions beginning Friday afternoon on Feb. 3.

Other industry events include J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable, and NADA's Opening Welcome Reception, which is co-hosted by J.D. Power, plus a variety of other events, including the announcements of TIME Dealer of the Year, ATD Commercial Truck of the Year and ATD/Heavy Duty Trucking Truck Dealer of the Year.

Pitt urges those who are planning to attend to register early, especially considering the other events occurring in Las Vegas at the same time of the convention, such as the Nevada GOP caucus and Super Bowl weekend, which is big in Las Vegas even though the game will be played in Indianapolis.

"Hotels rooms are filling up quickly," he said.

For more information or to register to attend the convention, visit www.nadaconventionandexpo.org.