Truly a 'world' tire exposition: U.S. and foreign dealers assemble in Louisville in the shadows of war

May 1, 2003

"Iraqi Freedom" had a profound impact on the World Tire Expo. In the days leading up to the convention and trade show hosted by the Tire Industry Association (TIA) in Louisville, Ky., new Executive Director Roy Littlefield tried to allay all fears that could potentially limit attendance.

"President Bush has encouraged all of us to continue our business in support of the troops abroad. For us, this means that the World Tire Expo will be held on schedule," he wrote to the attendees and exhibitors. "We have been working with the contractors and the facility to ensure a safe environment for you to conduct business."

During the event, televisions tuned to war coverage were displayed prominently on the trade show floor. It was not uncommon to see a crowd in the TIA information center watching up-to-the-minute news from the front lines in Iraq.

After the event, the effect of the war on attendance was clearly evident. Of the 1,837 people registered for the World Tire Expo, 1,485 attended. Officials attributed the 19% negative differential to "obvious concerns about both domestic and international air travel." More than one-third of the attendees were exhibitors; 904 were classified as buyers, spouses and others. In comparison, the 2001 expo in Nashville, Tenn. -- the last time it was held -- drew 2,200 attendees.

"Almost every exhibitor I spoke with was happy with the attendance, given the current events," says Tom Raben, TIA president.

Workshops were held prior to the start of the trade show each day. More than 1,000 dealers and retreaders attended the workshops, or close to 39 per seminar, according to Modern Tire Dealer's unofficial count. The best attended workshops were the keynote address, "How to Get the Right Price for Your Products and Services," and the "Do's and Don'ts of Tire Repair."

TIA plans to announce dates and the location of the next World Tire Expo at a board meeting this month. Also on the agenda is the upcoming budget and ways to make the association stronger.

Membership push

In preparation for a big push for membership, Littlefield already has hired Wilson Beach as director of sales on a part-time, trial basis. "We're looking at different things we want to get more involved in," says Littlefield.

Beach began serving the association on a three-month trial basis in late March. He will not be paid a salary; he will receive a commission on new members he brings in. "We're testing the waters," says Littlefield.

If the arrangement works out, he could be hired on a more permanent basis. Beach worked with Littlefield at their former organization, the Service Station Dealers of America.

Jill Mondo, director of membership for TIA, will focus on membership retention. TIA has more than 4,000 members.

Friends in deed

In his opening remarks at the Industry Recognition Dinner, Littlefield said the government forgets that it "shouldn't supplant private enterprise but help make it work."

TIA recognized a number of entrepreneurs who not only made it work but also volunteered their services to the industry. Those honored at the dinner included:

George Bishop, Lifetime Exhibitor Recognition Award. Bishop is founder and former president of Truflex/Pang Rubber Products Co. He sold the company to Tech International in 1998.

Tom Raben and Steve Disney, Industry Leadership Awards. Raben, president of Raben Tire Co. in Evansville, Ill., in addition to TIA president, and Disney, vice president of Disney Tire Co. in Louisville and TIA's immediate past president, will be forever linked for their efforts during the merger of their respective associations, which resulted in the creation of TIA. Paul Routhier of J.P. Routhier & Sons in Littleton, Mass., also received the Industry Leadership Award, which recognizes overall leadership and innovation for products and services fostering and promoting the international transportation industry.

Frank Hall and Anne Evans, Pioneer Awards. Hall, who opened Frank Hall Tire Service Inc. in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1958, worked in the industry for 56 years. Evans, president of Tyres 2000 Ltd. in Hebron, Conn., is an internationally known tire importer and exporter.

Ross Kogel and Allan Lassiter, Friend(s) of the Industry Award. Kogel, former TIA executive vice president, is now with Tire Wholesalers Inc. in Troy, Mich. Lassiter works with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and is a member of the TIA Tire and Rubber Recycling Council.

Keeping up appearances

The 29th Retread Appearance Contest handed out five "Best of Show" ribbons for retreading excellence. Division winners (with the names of the plant managers in parentheses) were:

Pre-Cure Truck (tie): T.M. Tire Co. Inc. of Crestwood, Ill. (Bob Stolinski), and Heintschel Tire & Service of Texarkana, Texas (John Frachissor).

Mold Cure Truck: T.M. Tire Co. Inc. of Crestwood, Ill.

Specialty: Recauchutagem 31 of Allobaca, Portugal (Carlos Marques).

Passenger/Light Truck: Industrias Del Neumatico S.A. of Aspe, Spain (Salvador Perez).

The tie in the Pre-Cure Truck Division was a category first.

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.