As this edition of AMD Magazine went to press, we were still waiting to hear from the organizer (Motorcycle Industry Council/MIC) just how well the show had done, but early reports suggested that attendance on the trade/dealer and the public days was up on last year.
Being staged the weekend after INTERMOT in Germany, this was the 4th annual AIMExpo, and the last that will take place at its 2013 launch venue - the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, before the event moves to the Midwest for 2017.
It would appear that the Midwest is the spiritual home of the motorcycle industry, in trade expo terms at least – drawn to it like a moth to a naked light bulb.
With the very high number of franchise dealerships and independent retail stores within a 500 mile radius of somewhere like Columbus, Ohio (the new host city), it is no wonder that the MIC has decided to bow to the seemingly inevitable and “go to the people” rather than hoping that the people would find the show, wherever it was staged.
The formula will remain the same for 2017 – with the first two days (Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd September) reserved for dealer, builder and industry attendance; with the doors being opened to the public as well at the weekend (September 23rd and 24th).
What the MIC must hope will change is the endless speculation about whether the event is in the right part of the United States, and how likely it is to pull an audience that is sufficient to deliver the kind of return on investment that the hard-pressed exhibitor community needs.
If the mother lode doesn’t yield sufficient attendance for the show to liquidate the industry’s investment, then it would be hard to figure out where could.
No doubt the debate about timing will rage until the end of time itself – with many still wedded to the firm view that such shows need to be in the spring.
But that is to miss an important point. It isn’t timing as such that makes AIMExpo vulnerable to this speculation – it isn’t the calendar that is on trial. It is the overall concept itself – that of bringing a European style mixed aftermarket and OE, trade and consumer style event, which depends on fall timing for MY debuts, to a continental sized national market such as the United States – it is that which remains under scrutiny.
That is the main square that AIMExpo still needs to circle. However, with the backing of the market’s trade association (as is the case with the European Expo models AIMExpo seeks to replicate) and the experience that former Cycle World publisher and MIC Chairman Larry Little is able to leverage (in his role as MIC Events Vice President), then, again, if AIMExpo can’t pull it off, then the motorcycle industry would be justified in concluding that it was never meant to be!
|Retro Modified winner Jordan Dickinson, Union Speed Cycle, MN|
|Street Custom winner Adam Karns, Karns Kustoms, MD|
|Performance Custom winner Jesse Spade, Jesse Spade Designs, GA|
Indeed, the results now (finally) being achieved at INTERMOT in Europe in terms of custom and mainstream living in happier harmony than was ever going to be the case at Indy, the portents are favorable, and much of the hard work has already been done – securing the backing of most of the major OEMs gives AIMExpo a solid foundation.
The ’Custom Culture’ show-within-show concept that Bob Kay is developing for AIMExpo is a mirror of what has been achieved at Cologne with ‘INTERMOT Customized’.
At Cologne the anchor is the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building, and with the Championship of the Americas as a World Championship affiliate, it is very likely that AIMExpo in September will benefit in V-twin industry exhibitor, builder and attendance terms, not only from being “back in the womb”, but also from the plowed ground that Easyrider Magazine has created in the Midwest in February each year - at Columbus, with its own custom show, and, of course, down the road at Cincinnati with the V-Twin Expo.
It remains to be seen if the custom market can sustain two competing expo concepts (most in the exhibitor community think not), and with Tucker Rocky/Biker’s Choice (Texas) and Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties (Indy) both announcing dealer events for February 2017, there is clearly trouble ahead in show terms in the next few months.
As regular readers will know, I have been a firm advocate of both the apparently competing, rival expo formulas … I think it is important that “the tribe” has its opportunities to “commune unto itself”, but important too that custom shops are able to be exposed to best practice and retail opportunities from elsewhere on the powersports industry radar.
If the ‘INTERMOT Customized’ show-within-show concept can be convincingly replicated at AIMExpo in the Midwest, then maybe, at last, the hatchet that split the industry between Indianapolis and Cincinnati in 1997 can finally be buried.