At this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, survival has passed maximizing profits as the focus of the annual event.

Thousands of dealers from across the U.S. were greeted by workshops titled Selling up in a down economy and Tough times, tougher dealers.

By almost all accounts, 2009 will be among the toughest years ever faced by the roughly 20,000 new car dealerships in the U.S., with sales of cars and lightweight trucks projected to shrink by as much as six million vehicles from the 16.1 million sold as recently as 2007.