LAS VEGAS—Like a 600-pound gorilla on steroids, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week shows just continue to bulk up. Last year's AAIW event in Las Vegas drew a record crowd to view practically every imaginable auto-motive product, gizmo or program under the desert sun.
That record was short-lived.
Preliminary attendance at this year's shows, Nov. 5-8, crested 64,345—a gain of almost 11 percent over that of 1995.
In comparison, Comdex—the huge annual electronics exhibition and this city's largest trade show—was expected to attract crowds in excess of 100,000, plus more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and 10,000 new products in late November.
That old joke about where a 600-pound gorilla sits—``anywhere it pleases''—seems even more germane with the news that next year the trade show and convention of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association will join the AAIW venue as part of the Specialty Equipment Market Association/Auto International Association (SEMA/AI) show.
In fact, the biggest problem appears to be just where this animal is going to sit: the shows are becoming so gargantuan that the city can't build new hotel and convention space fast enough to accommodate the growth. Barring a construction miracle, it appears the NTDRA's show will be housed in a free-standing building outside the entranceway to the immense Las Vegas Convention Center.
Even the heartiest of souls at this year's AAIW faced at least three solid days of walking the estimated eight or more miles of show floors to see each of the record 7,800 exhibit booths, including 4,083 at SEMA alone.
Other AAIW sponsors are the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), Automotive Parts & Accessories Association (APAA), and the Automotive Service Industry Association (ASIA), which share convention space in the Sands Expo Center.
The NTDRA's decision to join the AAIW shows—announced by the association's incoming Executive Vice President, David Poisson, on Nov. 4 at the SEMA/AI show—was clearly the predominant topic of conversation on the show floor.
And the straw-poll verdict there among many tire dealers, tire manufacturing executives and persons from tire- and automotive-related companies interviewed by TIRE BUSINESS: It was the right, logical choice to make.
While some 1,210 independent tire and wheel dealers attended the AAIW last year, this year's numbers hit 2,288, ballooned by the more than 2,000 dealers in town for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s annual consumer dealer meeting, held Nov. 6.
Still, many wondered whether the NTDRA would simply be swallowed up by the AAIW's sheer size. Comparatively, the NTDRA's own trade show in Atlanta this year saw attendance and booth numbers plummet almost 30 percent from its 1995 gathering—to 3,800 attendees and 530 booths.
Next year, the association is hoping to corral about 500 booths for its part of AAIW, with some tire-related companies expected to exhibit there and within the main convention center.
The SEMA/AI portion of this year's event, billed as ``the No. 1 trade show'' of the tire and wheel industries, housed tire makers, marketers and related companies, such as American Car Care Centers, Treadway Exports Ltd., Twin Tire International Inc., Myers Tire Supply, and many others.
Tire manufacturers included: Goodyear; Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.; Michelin North America; Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.; Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp.; Dunlop Tire Corp.; Nitto Tires; Hankook Tire America Corp.; Sumitomo Tire; Toyo Tire (USA) Corp.; and Yokohama Tire Corp.
Meanwhile, the APAA/ASIA/MEMA show featured a vast array of automotive service equipment, tools and vehicle accessories plus car care products of all kinds.
Also felt was the growing presence of the Big Three carmakers, which displayed a number of new and concept vehicles.
Chrysler Corp., for example, teased the crowds with its ``T-Rex'' Ram, a concept pickup truck with four rear wheels and full- or part-time six-wheel drive, leading the NTDRA's Mr. Poisson to excitedly remark: ``That would ride on six of our industry's tires!''A report on reactions to the NTDRA joining next year's AAIW shows will appear in the Dec. 9 issue of TIRE BUSINESS.