Remember when our industry’s anchor brands were a big part of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show? No? You are not alone. Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear tires were hard to find in the Las Vegas Convention Center last year.

Only the Kelsey Tire Inc. booth acknowledged any of the brands, and that was to promote antique Goodyear tires. What doesn’t happen in Vegas also stays in Vegas (I think the more than 3,500 media attendees would agree with me).

The Tire Industry Association (TIA), which runs SEMA’s Global Tire Expo, will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020. I would like to see the Big Three, all pre-show event sponsors, exhibiting that year, not only to celebrate the milestone birthday, but also because I think it will pay off for everyone involved.

I know it’s not my job to convince them to exhibit. It is TIA’s responsibility to put the full court press on Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear to bring their flagship brands back to the trade show floor. But Modern Tire Dealer is also part of this industry, and I think a strong Global Tire Expo helps everyone. Hear me out.

I believe the presence of the Big 3 on the trade show floor would bring more dealers and buyers to Las Vegas. Although it wouldn’t increase the amount of money SEMA pays the association, an enhanced show would help grow TIA’s membership, either through registration or show floor sign-ups at the TIA booth.

Having more members gives TIA a chance to strengthen and profit from the benefits it offers. In turn, the members benefit from the benefits, which include access to affordable health insurance. Even the non-members would benefit from more lobbying and training. The cycle is self-perpetuating.

I talked with independent tire dealers and equipment manufacturers at last year’s Global Tire Expo to find out what they thought. They tended to agree with me, although they were all sympathetic to the expense involved. The cost of a booth representative of the stature of Bridgestone, Michelin or Goodyear in the industry coupled with expenses associated with employee travel would easily top $1 million.

But from a branding position, it’s money well spent. Being on the trade show floor can help convince dealers to buy and sell your product. The widely accepted 70/30 Rule states that from start to finish, the tire dealer determines the tire brand the customer buys at least 70% of the time. So unless they are happy with the number and loyalty of the dealers they have in the fold, the tire companies will benefit from face-to-face encounters with their customers and potential customers. This applies to any major tire company not exhibiting.

“My first instinct is to ask, ‘How can the major tire companies not be there representing their position in the U.S. tire market in one of the global tire shows of the world?’” said Mark Rhodes, president of Plaza Tire Service Inc. “I don’t know how you can defend your brand if you don’t show up. I think if they defend their technology, brand and pricing, erosion to other brands may not happen.

“I go every year to try to make my business better. That could include checking out innovative products and getting in front of people we do business with — and in front of people we might do business with.”

According to SEMA’s latest survey results, 65% of the 70,000 qualified buyers attending the SEMA Show find new vendors.

At last year’s show, the Cooper and Pirelli brands were front and center on the trade show floor. Being off the Global Tire Expo floor for so long, the Big 3 may have trouble getting prime positioning. Those are logistics for TIA and SEMA to handle.

I know the major tire companies that don’t exhibit are still represented in Las Vegas. Their executives set up meetings with as many of the larger dealers as possible; many if not all of those dealers are in Las Vegas to attend the show for the same reasons as Rhodes. That means the non-exhibiting tire manufacturers are piggybacking off the companies that do exhibit.

That just doesn’t seem right. I know they attend other international automotive trade events. Why not this one?

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.    ■

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