Mix a drag race, car show, dance party, car parts swap meet, bikini contest (add even more scantily clad young women-some sporting ``aftermarket'' body parts themselves, for extra spice) and voila!...you have yourself a tuner lifestyle event.
The granddaddy of these car-related festivals, which usually draw crowds between ages 18 and 24, is Vision Entertainment's Hot Import Nights (www.hotimportnights.com). It started out in Southern California but has expanded to Northern California, Seattle, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey and Chicago.
Mark Richter, tire veteran and Yokohama Tire Corp. high-performance marketing maven, claims as events go, the NOPI Nationals (www.nopinationals.com) also rank right up there on the Richter scale. ``It's huge. You'll see street tuner car buffs from all walks of life.''
Richard Smallwood, a Falken Tire Corp. vice president, agreed that, for a tire dealer, taking the time and effort to drop in on a tuner event is a good investment. ``People can talk tires with the end users. It's the best marketing you can probably ever get, but it's extremely expensive and labor intensive.''
And there are plenty of events from which to choose.
Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich Tires unit, is a main sponsor of AutoFest 2001 in July in San Jose, Calif. Cards promoting it promise import cars, SUVs, motorcycles, European vehicles, skateboarding, stereo challenge and feature a bare-chested Asian woman with arms strategically folded.
Jerry Fan, manager of Bozz Performance, a Fremont, Calif., tuner shop, finds events like Hot Import Nights helpful. ``We'll enter our own cars in the shows and let the cars speak for themselves,'' he said. ``We walk around and see what other people are doing, trying to get ahead of the market.... We see what's hot and what's not.''
Dana Zamalloa, marketing communications manager for Toyo Tire (USA) Corp., said the firm has actively supported the import performance market, including sponsorships of drag racing and import lifestyle events, since 1997. ``...We have found the import enthusiasts to be very loyal to Toyo in return for our participation,'' she said.
The company has one of the most aggressive ultra-high-performance product programs in the tire business, she said. ``The import performance market is a natural fit for Toyo as it is the most active and fastest growing segment of the performance industry. Our support has generated significant visibility for Toyo while also addressing our goal of moving import drag racing off the streets and on to the track.''
The import performance trend that began in Southern California has grown to be a nationwide phenomenon, Ms. Zamalloa said. This year, Toyo is sponsoring five import-related events across the U.S. and participates in a multitude of others-some which can attract audiences from 25,000 to 65,000.
To secure a piece of this lucrative market, Toyo's offerings include a broad selection of sizes in its ultra-high-performance product line geared towards providing the proper size tires for OE and Plus-1 and Plus-2 applications for popular import and sport compact vehicles, she noted.