AKRON-What do Goodyear, Michelin North America, Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp., General Tire, Yokohama Tire Corp. and Toyo Tire (U.S.A.) Corp. have in common? None of them exhibited their flag brands at the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association trade show in September. All, however, will be at the combined Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade shows in November in Las Vegas, particularly the SEMA/AI show.
With limited monetary and personnel resources, tire manufacturers say they must choose how many and which trade shows to attend each year. This year, these companies opted for AAIW over NTDRA.
The scarcity of major tire maker representation at the recent NTDRA show in Dallas was a topic of discussion among attendants. At a Town Meeting, held during the convention, dealers pointed to the absence of some tire makers from the tradeshow floor as evi-dence of their lack of concern for the independent tire dealer.
And the discussion hasn't quieted since.
Bonnie F. Moreland Jr., president of the Texas Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, voiced his concerns about the size of the NTDRA trade show in the September issue of the group's newsletter, Texas Tire Trax.
``It also appeared to me that this was one of the smallest trade shows that the NTDRA has ever had, and as I walked through the show, at least 15 to 20 different exhibitors commented on the sparse crowd and said they probably wouldn't be back next year,'' he wrote in the newsletter before urging dealers to support the NTDRA.
One of the places tire manufacturers are diverting their trade show dollars is the AAIW trade shows, a massive conglomeration created three years ago by several automotive aftermarket associations at the behest of aftermarket suppliers.
``We've seen a dramatic increase in the tire company representation over the past couple of years,'' said Tony Thacker, director of public relations for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
SEMA and the Auto International Association sponsor the SEMA/AI show, while the Automotive Service Industry Association, the Automotive Parts & Accessories Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association sponsor the ASIA/MEMA/APAA show. Both shows are held simultaneously.
``(A combined show) was something that the industry called for,'' Mr. Thacker explained. ``We had shows scattered across the country, competing against each other. The industry wanted one show in one place at one time.''
The benefits have been immense, he explained, ``rejuvenating'' the U.S. automotive aftermarket industry and attracting an increasing number of international buyers.
The AAIW has become the second-largest automotive trade show in the world and the 10th-largest U.S. convention of any kind, Mr. Thacker contends. This year, AAIW expects to attract 55,000 attendees and have 7,300 booths at two convention centers in Las Vegas, Nov. 1-4.
The number of manufacturers participating in the AAIW trade shows could climb even higher, as at least one of the AAIW's organizers said he intends to aggressively pursue tire manufacturers and dealers for next year's shows.
``We will have a very full program on the tire business next year,'' said William Glasgow Sr. of W.K. Glasgow Inc., a trade show organizing company.
The AAIW said it has experienced 11-percent growth over last year.
Meanwhile, the NTDRA show in September attracted 274 booths to Dallas, including 57 new exhibitors, according to C.D. ``Tony'' Hylton III, NTDRA Director of Communication Services. Though the number of NTDRA exhibitors has climbed 14 percent since 1992, the number of major tire manufacturers participating has declined.
The AAIW is not in competition with the NTDRA, Mr. Thacker emphasized, adding, ``We don't actually pursue tire makers above and beyond anybody else. They come if they want to come.''
Why more tire makers are attending the AAIW shows is hardly a mystery, the SEMA spokesman said. ``The bigger tire companies are looking for excitement,'' he said, and are seeking to influence the kinds of auto enthusiasts who, in turn, influence other buyers.
The AAIW shows, he noted, are attended by classic car, racing and other automotive enthusiasts and aftermarket performance parts makers-a natural fit for tire makers looking to attract market share, he said.
To help capture that market, some tire makers are pulling out all the stops at the AAIW shows, holding ride-and-drive events, dealer meetings and special booth attractions, and seeing to it their tires are mounted on vehicles displayed in other booths.
Pirelli, absent from the NTDRA show this year, is displaying 10 years' worth of Pirelli calendars at its exhibit as well as placing tires on performance cars on the show floor, Mr. Thacker said.
``(The vehicles at the shows) are really terrific builds,'' he said. ``(Attendees) look at the tires and go: `That's what I want on my car.' The smart tire companies...use that interest to build interest in their (tires).''
The AAIW is trying to attract tire dealers to Las Vegas with tire and wheel displays and dealer-specific seminars.
The AAIW said it has featured the largest display of tires and wheels in the world since its 1992 inception. This year the AAIW shows also will feature dealer-specific seminars, including: ``New Ideas for Tire Dealers on How to Outsmart and Outsell Your Competition''; and ``Installation Jackpot! You Can Strike Gold if You Install More than Tires.''
More than 700 tire dealers are registered to attend the AAIW shows this year, Mr. Thacker said.
So where will the major tire manufacturers go next year?
Mr. Hylton said he believes more manufacturers will attend the NTDRA's 75th anniversary show in New Orleans.
And representatives of the tire companies themselves said they will consider all trade shows equally next year. None of them ruled out attending the NTDRA's 75th anniversary show.
``The decision to exhibit at any given trade show is based on a number of factors, including the focus of the show, expense, market conditions, anticipated attendance, location and other considerations,'' said Al Eastwood, Goodyear vice president, replacement sales, in a prepared statement.
``One important factor is timing and whether the show is scheduled at a time advantageous to the introduction of new Goodyear products....''
The audience a show can deliver is a major consideration for many tire makers, including Dunlop Tire Corp., according to Advertising Manager Betty Croglio.
``We look at the audience, the opportunities for us to obtain new business (and) the need for Dunlop to be at a show to support the industry,'' Ms. Croglio said. This year Dunlop already has attended the American Retreaders' Association and NTDRA shows and will be at the SEMA show.
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. decided to pass on the AAIW this year, according to a spokesman, mainly because the company did not have enough monetary and personnel resources to attend. BFS did appear at the National Truck Stop Owners Association, ARA and NTDRA shows in 1994.
In fact, BFS held its annual dealer meeting in conjunction with the NTDRA show.
BFS attempts to decide which shows will most likely put company representatives in contact with dealers interested in BFS's products and marketing image, the spokesman said.
``With (the) Firestone (brand) returning to racing and with (the) Bridgestone (brand) strong in performance, SEMA is definitely a viable show for us,'' he said.
``...There are a lot of shows out there. We believe independent dealers are stretched very thin. They can't go to all of them.''