The Tire Industry Association is reviewing whether to hold another World Tire Expo-complete with a trade show and education seminars-or to shift to another type of format.
The show, now held biennally, has been declining in exhibit size and attendance in recent years.
This year's expo drew 1,541 attendees, only slightly higher than the 1,493 registrants at the 2003 conference, while the trade show attracted 119 exhibiting companies, down from 134 two years ago. The exhibit floor also was smaller at 24,000 square feet compared with 34,300 square feet in 2003.
The 1997 World Tire Expo, by comparison, drew 4,200 attendees and featured 217 exhibitors covering 92,719 square feet of exhibit space.
Roy Littlefield, TIA's executive vice president, said the expo's future will be discussed at upcoming association board meetings. The association also will solicit feedback from exhibitors and review surveys from the 2005 expo, held April 19-23 in Louisville, before any decision is made.
``No matter what format we go to in the future, education will be important,'' Mr. Littlefield said during an interview on the trade show floor.
Historically, the education programs have been a strength of the show, and this year the seminars were well-attended, he said. ``We don't want to lose that as we look at future shows and future events.''
Mr. Littlefield said he expects a decision will be made on the timetable, location and format of the next expo by the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in November. ``But whatever we do, (the next expo) won't happen until the spring of 2007,'' he said.
Mr. Littlefield touched on a range of topics during the Louisville interview, including training, the soon-to-be-published tire wear conditions manual and the state of the association.
TIA's training efforts are ``exploding,'' he said, with revenues generated by the certified commercial tire service (CTS) and automotive tire service (ATS) training expected to top $1 million for the first time ever in 2005.
For TIA members, the price for basic CTS training starts at $125 per technician and rises to $950 for certified instructor training. ATS training ranges in price from $150 to $950.
TIA also plans to add a training module covering tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and will spend $300,000 this summer to develop it, Mr. Littlefield said.
Tire pressure monitors will be required on new passenger vehicles starting Sept. 1. By 2008, all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less must be equipped with the systems.
Delphi, a company out of New York, is developing the TPMS education program for TIA, Mr. Littlefield said, adding the information likely will need to be updated every year to cover the various systems.
To cover the cost of creating a TPMS training module, TIA will attempt to raise funds during its annual meetings with tire makers this year. The money will be applied to the TIA Foundation, which currently has assets of $567,692.
TPMS training is especially critical for independent tire dealers, Mr. Littlefield said.
``It is crucial that we're able to service our customers on all wheel-related issues,'' he said. ``We can't take a gamble that the auto manufacturers will pass this technology on to us. We have to ensure that the tire dealer never sends customers back to the automobile dealership for tire-related issues.''
TIA also has just gone to press with its Passenger and Light Truck Tire Conditions Manual. The initial printing calls for 30,000 issues; 26,000 are preordered.
The 200-page manual covers more than 70 tire wear conditions and features 300 color photos. It is designed to help dealers identify tire problems and to help with adjustments, Mr. Littlefield said.
``This is huge for dealers and the whole industry,'' he said. ``It's a liability issue.''
Mr. Littlefield said TIA now has more than 5,000 members, with revenue from annual membership more than doubling to $890,000.
He also noted the association's staff is coming together as a team, following the merger in 2002 of the former Tire Association of North America and International Tire & Rubber Association. At the time of the merger, the newly formed association had staff members in three states.
Now everyone is housed in one location in Bowie, Md., and the cultures of the two organizations have been melded into one.
In addition the association's finances have turned brighter following a $600,000 plus surplus last year vs. a $700,000 plus loss the year before. But, as Mr. Littlefield put it: ``We're not out of the woods yet.''
Still, he's excited about the prospects for the future.
``It's been hard to get there, but now we're in a position to take off,'' he said.