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Attendance, exhibitors increase for Autopromotec 2007: Trade show fosters spirit of cooperation between Italian and U.S. associations

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Attendance, exhibitors increase for Autopromotec 2007: Trade show fosters spirit of cooperation between Italian and U.S. associations

The Autopromotec 2007 show continues to grow and establish Bologna, Italy, as a center of commerce for international trade in the automotive aftermarket. Held May 23-27, the show attracted almost 100,000 attendees and exhibitor personnel.

Organizers were very encouraged that nearly 17,000 non-Italian attendees from 110 different countries attended. This year, there were 1,404 exhibitors, an increase of 36% from the 2005 event. Almost three halls of the exhibition center focused on tire and tire service equipment, a large portion of the overall event. Interestingly, although there were many tire companies on display, including Pirelli Tyre, the major tire manufacturers did not display at the event.

The Italian marketplace for automotive service and repair was comprised of 84,500 firms as of 2006. The Autopromotec Observatory breaks out the marketplace as follows:

* 27,400 engine technicians,

* 7,800 auto electricians,

* 18,130 auto body builders,

* 6,540 tire fitters,

* 3,820 car dealers, and

* 20,810 equipped service stations.

All segments have decreased slightly in numbers from 2005 except for "equipped service stations," which has grown 4.1%. To put the size of the Italian market in perspective, the total revenue for motor vehicle components was around 35 billion euros in 2006.

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According to the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Italian companies exported 11,423 million euros worth of car parts and accessories in 2005, an increase of 7.7% from the previous year. This represents a trade balance increase of 533.5% in the past five year period.

Some of the success for Italy's growing exports is strong activity by the government's Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, also know as the Italian Trade Commission (ITC). The body's task is the promotion, facilitation and internationalization of commerce between Italy and the rest of the world.

According to Patrick Capriati, senior marketing promotional officer for the ITC in Chicago, the commission emphasizes helping the small- and medium-sized enterprises with their export opportunities.

The ITC has 104 offices in 80 different countries.

During the Autopromotec show, the ITC helped orchestrate separate agreements between the Italian Automotive Service Equipment Manufacturers Association (AICA) and three major automotive aftermarket associations from the United States. The associations are the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). The Tire Industry Association postponed signing a similar agreement until this November during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.

The agreements call for an exchange of relevant market and technical information for increased trade and technological cooperation between members. It also calls for assistance in trade delegations and participation in exhibitions, conferences and similar events. The purpose of the agreements is to "foster a spirit of closer cooperation and coordination of activities in the automotive aftermarket between the two countries in general and the respective member of the... associations in particular."

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Gori speaks out

Francesco Gori, managing director of Pirelli Pneumatici S.p.A, spoke to Modern Tire Dealer during the Autopromotec show about initiatives that the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA) are undertaking. Gori is currently the president of ETRMA.

He says that the ETRMA is focusing on three major areas right now -- safety, environmental protection and industry competitiveness. (Editor's note: What follows are areas of mutual concerns that U.S.-based manufacturers find themselves having in this country.)

Pointing to the Federpneus and other similar studies, Gori says that 10% of tires are not properly maintained. He says the ETRMA supports tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) legislation for Europe and it was the first group to be interested in this.

The ETRMA is also looking at additional research to determine what the minimum tread depth should be for tires - it wants to decide what is too much and what is too little. The equivalent of 2/32nds remains the standard, but it is being debated. Gori also suggested that further legislation should be created to make sure the right tire is on the road at the right time -- referring to winter tires for vehicles during the cold weather season.

Environmental issues also have been a major point of interest to the ETRMA. Gori says adoption of aeormatic-free materials linking back to the chemical manufacturers has major ramifications for the industry. A cause for concern for the industry, according to Gori, is potential European Union (EU) rules that call for a drastic decrease in acoustical noise from tires. At present, Gori says that industry does not have the technology to produce tires that are less than six decimals under test conditions.

Additional carbon dioxide regulations are going to be implemented by 2012 for new vehicles and tire companies will be pressured to lower rolling resistance to help vehicles in meeting the new standards.

A final point that Gori made about ETRMA's mission right now is ensuring that its members are competitive. He says the association wants to make sure that all tires which are imported to the EU must comply with the numerous regulations that domestically manufactured tires do. He called for executable penalties to be enacted to level the playing field. He meanwhile acknowledged that enforcement of rules continues to be the biggest single problem.

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Do Italian drivers pay more attention to tires than U.S. drivers?

At Autopromotec, the Italian Tire Dealer Association, Federpneus, displayed results from random surveys that had been conducted for them by Italian police to determine the conditions of tires being used by consumers in the country.

A 2006 study of 10,000 cars stopped at random in 10 cities revealed that 5% of the cars had dangerously low air pressure, while 47% were somewhat under inflated and 48% had normal inflation pressures.

(Comparing that with U.S. figures, a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that 27% of passenger cars in the U.S. are driven with one or more substantially underinflated tires. NHTSA says 32% of light trucks - including SUVs, pickup trucks and vans - are driven with one or more substantially underinflated tires.)

Federpneus also had conducted a similar study to see if visible damage was showing on car tires. Again, 10,000 cars were stopped in four major Italian cities. A full 6% of the tires had visible damage.

These studies were extensions of similar studies that Italy has been conducting over the years regarding tread depths of tires. The latest results of that study show that 10% of tires had less than 1.6 mm of tread depth (roughly 2/32nds), a number that has been constant in over 10 years of research.

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