(Above) The AIMExpo floor filled with consumers through the weekend as celebrities like “King” Kenny Roberts and “American PIckers” star Frank Fritz took to the stage. (Below) Kymco was one of the larger OEMs in attendance.
“Five days that will change the powersports industry.” A lofty claim for a maiden event, but the 2013 American International Motorcycle Expo broadcast itself to be just that.
In the past dealer and consumer shows have, for the most part, been kept separate in the United States. The yearly Dealer Expo in Indianapolis is closed to consumers, who see new model year products during any of the multiple IMS shows held around the country during the late fall, early winter months . In practical terms this has meant that product representatives and OEMs were forced to make multiple trips to multiple cities in the span of a few months to reach dealers and consumers at the outset of a new product year. Declining attendance at the Dealer Expo over the past year suggested that something needed to change (prompting, perhaps, its change in venue this year to Chicago instead of Indianapolis). The continued success of all-in-one shows like EICMA made the potential for a similar show in America a dream worth pursuing for Larry Little, Vice President and GM of Marketplace Events Motorcycle Group.
One of the primary complaints against the Dealer Expo was that it occurred in February, quite late in the game considering EICMA and Intermot happen 3-5 months earlier. So AIMExpo found a timeslot in late October that fit right between Intermot (typically held late September, early October) and EICMA (held in November) to establish an American version of the European model. In the conversations we had with a number of product reps, the timing was perfect. It corresponds well with many of the companies’ new product announcement timelines and allows dealers to plan for the stock they want to offer months before many of the products hit the market.
MotoUSA talked with Larry Little about the generation of the event after the first trade show days had passed, to see whether the inaugural AIMExpo was living up to expectation.
“You know when you have a vision when you start out? This is pretty close to what the original vision was. We’ve got an unbelievable show floor for a first year, almost 400 exhibitors, it’s wild. It was an excellent start (trade days). We were helped a lot by Suzuki having a semblance of a dealer meeting where they encouraged their dealers to come down and see the new product.”
The prevalence of dealers in attendance was roundly welcome by product representatives.
“Some of the most telling comments from a number of people were they talked to more dealer principles in the last two days than they’d talked to in the last 10 years at the Indy show,” continued Little. “I think that’s a sign of where the business is heading. We really need to talk to the decision makers. Did we get the traffic we wanted from a dealer perspective? No. We would have loved to see more dealers come down, but we recognize this is a first year effort but I think we showed the promise of what this can be. Our team did a really good job, I’m really proud of them. They know what they’re doing, they’re pros and from day one customer service was always going to be the central thing for us.”
Besides reinvigorating the industry in the States, Little also believes the AIMExpo model will be good for the global industry as well. In preparation for the inaugural event Little approached EICMA officials and the Italian Trade Commission to devise ways to work in collaboration. One of the most palpable results was a large portion of the AIMExpo floor dedicated to Italian companies and products.
“Right from the start I got to know the EICMA folks and the Italian Trade Commission folks and I think that was important because from a global perspective. I think there’s room for a Pan-European, Pan-American and Pan-Asian platform to introduce product. Right now EICMA is the de-facto world platform. US consumers are looking to Europe to find out what will be in the US and that was unacceptable to me as an industry guy. We need a platform over here and the market quite honestly has been asking for a while.
“I came to them (EICMA) with the approach that we wanted to collaborate because quite honestly there’s bikes that are going to be more for the American market. In fact, when Peter de Waal was still at BMW, when we first started doing the research on this project, he told me that if we had this platform when they introduced the K1600GT and GTL it would have been introduced to the world here because it’s primarily an American-market bike. So that’s what we expect. We’ll compete a little bit for intros but it will probably be more regional specific and we’ll get more U.S. stuff, they’ll get more stuff aimed at the European market”
Time will tell whether more companies buy into the all-in-one Expo model in America. The Dealer Expo has already taken steps to improve its standing, changing dates to December and location to Chicago for 2014. AIMExpo is already planning for next year too, looking to dates in mid-October once again and a likely return to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
This year’s Expo may not have had the flourish of the giant European shows, but there was no shortage of interesting products, new model announcements and events for dealers and consumers. The following pages will look at some of the cool gear, celebrity appearances, strange products and concept models that filled our five days in Florida.