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Despite being held during a particularly intense global economic recession, the 2009 edition of Autopromotec drew a record number of attendees (101,620), 2.4% more than the last edition of the show, which was held in 2007.

This year’s edition of Autopromotec — which was staged in Bologna, Italy — also boasted 1,443 exhibitors, 2.8% more than 2007 and another record for the event, which bills itself as the premier business-to-business automotive trade show in the world.

Broken down further, approximately 16,689 attendees came from outside Italy, while more than 460 exhibitors were from abroad.

“In a period of crisis, this exhibition has better figures than it generated during boom periods,” Renzo Servadei, Autopromotec’s managing director, told attendees.

Foreign visitors included several American tire dealers, such as Bob Purcell, chairman of Purcell Tire & Rubber Co.; Randy Groh, vice president of product marketing for Combined Locks, Wis.-based U.S. AutoForce; and Michael Cox, CEO and president of the Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC (ITDG). Groh and Cox were part of a special delegation sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission. The businessmen used the show as an opportunity to make new business contacts and in some cases, wheel and deal.

More than 25 tire companies from around the globe — plus numerous tire and garage equipment, retread equipment, and garage tool manufacturers and marketers — displayed their wares during Autopromotec.

Tire brands on display included labels that currently are marketed in the U.S. — such as Federal, Kenda, Vredestein, Nokian and Wanli — plus lesser-known brands like Sacco, an OTR line made in Italy, and Radburg, a consumer tire line built in Romania.

From Italy to you

More than 50% of all tire changers, balancers and alignment machines sold worldwide are manufactured in “The Italian Motor Valley,” which encompasses Bologna and several other cities in the northern part of the country, according to Autopromotec officials.

Italian garage and tire equipment manufacturers that had a major presence at the event included Corghi, which recently set up a U.S. office in Hamilton, Ohio; Ravaglioli SpA: FASEP; and others.

A number of tread rubber and retread equipment suppliers also exhibited at the show, including Marangoni SpA, which displayed new retread products for truck, passenger and earthmover tires, as well as the company’s new Black Swan cushion gum application machine.

Forty-three percent of all replacement tires sold in Europe, whether passenger or medium truck, are retreads, according to Bipaver, the association for the European Union’s retread industry.

Some 7.5 million retreads are produced in Europe each year, roughly half the size of the U.S. retread market.

During Autopromotec, Claudio Spiritelli, Corghi’s director of U.S. operations, shared Corghi’s plans for the North American market with Modern Tire Dealer.

“We are not limiting ourselves at all” in terms of new product introductions, said Spiritelli. Corghi currently sells tire changers and balancers in North America and will bring its alignment machines to the domestic market in 2010. “We know aligners are an important part of the North American market.”

He also discussed training programs at Corghi’s Hamilton, Ohio, facility, which opened in mid-May. The company offers training for both Corghi equipment end users and technicians who service its machines. “We can train up to 30 people at the same time.”

Corghi will inventory 5,000 spare parts in Hamilton with same-day shipping to service centers. “We also are directly linked to Italy” and can source and deliver products from its home office within 48 hours.

Spiritelli said Corghi will continue to sell through its current network of distributors in the U.S., including Myers Tire Supply and other companies.

Companies that supply ancillary tire shop products had their day in the sun, as well. One of them was Parker Filtration and Separation B.V., which displayed its new Mobile TyreSaver nitrogen inflation “gun.”

The hand-held device, which plugs into local air sources in the dealer’s shop and can be moved from tire to tire, will be marketed in the U.S. through Parker Hannifin Corp. sometime this year, said Robin Biemans, Parker product manager.

Nitrogen inflation has been popular in Europe for the last 12 years, he explained. “Almost all” tire dealers who offer nitrogen in Europe charge for it — up to 50 euros a car in some cases. “It depends on what equipment they have.”

The American perspective

ITDG’s Cox had never been to Autopromotec before. Afterwards, he told MTD that he liked the business-to-business flavor of the show. “I was impressed. I like the idea of less sizzle, more substance. The attendees were there to conduct business.”

Autopromotec was divided into different sections according to product and business categories. “It was easy to maneuver through the show. If you wanted to see equipment, you knew where most of the equipment was. If you wanted to look at other stuff, you knew where it was.”

Cox met with a number of tire and garage equipment manufacturers and intends to stay in contact with them. “I’d like to find a way to utilize some of the equipment manufacturers we met,” he says.

“I was quite impressed that the quality of (Italian-made garage) products is on par with the leaders in the U.S.”

He believes that many Italian equipment suppliers will find a way to break into the U.S. market if they’re not doing business here already. “Just making the contacts and maintaining those relationships before they get here is a big plus.”

This was Groh’s first go-around at Autopromotec, as well. Referring to what his company may derive from his participation in the event, Groh said “there may be possibilities with (garage) equipment. Probably more than anything else, we — as a distributor — are always looking for ways to add more value to the equation.

“If you are a larger retail chain that’s in expansion mode and looking for equipment, I think there are opportunities at Autopromotec,” he continued.

Purcell is an Autopromotec veteran, having attended the event for a number of years. “It’s one of the better shows I go to.”

The reason he attended this year’s edition was “to look at the different equipment... the pros and cons of what’s offered, and what competitors have to say about the other guys’ products.”

He recommends Autopromotec to fellow tire dealers. “It’s worthwhile.” The next edition of Autopromotec will be held May 25-29, 2011, in Bologna.    ■

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