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SEMA, AFTERMATH: A lot goes on behind the scenes

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The 2005 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show has come and gone, but its legacy will continue well into the new year. That's because of all the meetings held both on and off the trade show floor.

That was particularly evident among independent tire dealers and their domestic and offshore suppliers, many of whom exhibited in SEMA's "Performance Tires and Wheels" section (sponsored by the Tire Industry Association). And make no mistake, all the majors were in attendance.

Yes, the namesake brands of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC and Continental Tire North America Inc. were notable by their absence from the trade show halls. Goodyear used its booth space to showcase the Dunlop brand. Bridgestone Firestone set up a trailer outside the Las Vegas Convention Center to promote its Fuzion tuner brand.

Michelin Tire North America Inc. had a booth, but it promoted its racing heritage more than anything else.

However, top North American executives from the "Big Four" were all there in some capacity: Jon Rich, president of Goodyear North American Tire; Mark Emkes, chairman and CEO of Bridgestone Firestone; Jean-Michel Guillon, executive vice president and COO of Michelin; and Andreas Gerstenberger, Continental's vice president of sales and marketing for the Passenger and Light Truck Replacement Group.

The buyers were in attendance as well. For example, Andy Traicoff, director of the Dunlop brand in North America, said the dealers with whom he met represented 70% of the brand's volume in the United States. And Bridgestone Firestone held a dealer meeting off-site.

The importance of the show, part of Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas, was summed up best by a tire dealer who told me about the behind-the-scenes dealings. "You have to be here, whether or not you ever walk the trade show floor." -- Bob Ulrich, editor, Modern Tire Dealer

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