This is a pivotal year for the World Tire Expo, the largest convention and trade show still owned by the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
The event, which will take place in Louisville, Ky., March 26-29, has been eagerly anticipated for a number of reasons.
Two years ago, after facing sparse crowds and fewer exhibitors at its Expo in Nashville, Tenn., the International Tire & Rubber Association made the difficult decision to shift the show to an every other year schedule in the hopes of generating more enthusiasm for it.
Now comes the first World Tire Expo since then, and the first since the merger of the former Tire Association of North America and ITRA into TIA. But the question remains: Will the merger and hiatus bring an upturn in attendance and exhibiting companies?
There are many who believe the tire industry-and commercial tire dealers and retreaders in particular-can benefit from having their own trade show.
We're among those who think it will make a difference, if for no other reason than it's the industry's last true national tire convention and trade show in the U.S.
While TIA is a partner in the huge and successful Specialty Equipment Market Associa-tion/International Tire Expo held each year in Las Vegas, that show lacks the intimacy and focus of the former conventions held independently by the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association and American Re-treaders Association-forerunners to TIA.
This is no knock on SEMA/ITE. It is a great event and one well worth attending. But tires and wheels are only one small part of that gargantuan extravaganza. There's an incredible amount to see, but it's so large that the serendipitous meeting of fellow tire dealers, for example, is often lost.
And SEMA/ITE doesn't offer much for commercial tire dealers and retreaders, nor, for that matter, the scrap tire/recycling industry, all of which make up a large part of TIA's membership. That event's focus is on the automotive aftermarket, including passenger and light truck tires and wheels.
That's why the World Tire Expo is so important. With it, commercial tire dealers and retreaders have a show designed just for them, where they can meet and discuss common issues, network, view the latest offerings from equipment vendors and suppliers and learn by attending educational programs.
TIA needs the show, as well, to support its commercial, retreader and scrap tire membership and to attract new members. And it needs the show's revenues to help fund, among other things, its commercial tire training program and lobbying efforts on behalf of commercial dealers and retreaders.
So there's a lot riding on this year's World Tire Expo, not only for TIA's commercial members but for the organization itself.