Archive for the 'powersports' Category

Trade Pub Dealernews Brand Revived

Dealernews Back On Stands?

Dealernews

In what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, perhaps the single most momentous event since Lazarus emerged intact, comes news of the acquisition of defunct trade pub label Dealernews by a midwest consortium, DN 2.0, headed up by Columbus, OH Harley-Davidson franchisee Bob Althoff.

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry.”

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry,” says the owner of three OEM dealerships. The plan for DN 2.0 is apparently to restore what was lost during the mid-2000’s heyday by recalling editorial staff and management from the brand inherited by UBM in 2015 when they purchased Advanstar and which was then abruptly shuttered.

The revived brand will ostensibly be guided by an advisory board made up from a number of well-known powersports single and multi-line dealer heads, industry consultants, and communications veterans. Will it make a difference? The field of national powersports trade publications has shrunk from five to two over the last decade as social media channels have proliferated and advertising options have multiplied. For many, that constitutes a trend.

The B2B pub’s successes, and ultimately failure(s), tracked the once dominant trade show giant DealerExpo, which went down for the last time in 2014, leaving the field open for the American International Motorcycle Exposition, itself now headed ironically to Columbus for one lap in 2017 before finally dropping anchor in Las Vegas.

Assets include the Dealernews trademark, brand, website, email and registration lists, and newsletters.

weego is portable power

Emergency Starting Power Packs

WeeGo 22 powerpack

WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani thinks everyone should have emergency power handy. Don’t wish you had.

My first question to WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani, left, was about the name. His answer, simply enough, was that the product, one of any number of lithium battery emergency power sources, was small, and it would get you going a lot faster than rubbing two sticks together and praying for fire.

Their feature-laden lineup of ergonomically pleasing hi-vis orange charging and emergency starting power begins with a candy bar sized phone/watch/fitness tracker charger and tops out with their top-of-the-line WeeGo 66.

The latter packs a huge amount of amperage in a very compact package, capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Well, maybe not so much. But the new for 2017 portable power pack delivers up to 600 cranking amps, enough for gas engines up to 10L, and diesels up to 5L. Remember, this is something you can hold in one hand.

Advanced Technology Prevents Screwups

But without the right technology, cranking power alone only gets you so far. Just ask Samsung.

WeeGo’s model 22, 44, and 66 all feature their patented Smarty Clamps, which eliminate any chance of hooking up the wrong terminal by making sure contacts are sure, secure, and safe. (I never thought of it, but both sides of the jaw are powered. Who knew?)

What else? USB charging for all your portable power hogs, plus 12V and 19V outputs to power accessories and laptops. And even though you say you’ll never need one, they claim their 600 lumen dual LED flashlight will operate in strobe mode for 18 hours, and can signal an SOS for up to 36 hours.

Capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Pack recharge is fast, and claimed standby power is up to 3-years. Built-in protection against power surge, overheating, polarity screwups, and even an anti-spark feature in case you’re operating in an inflammable environment.

WeeGo portable power

WeeGo power packs come in a range of sizes and capacities. The 22, shown, is well suited for powersports, including offroad and on the water.

There’s not a lot of price spread between the emergency starter models. The middle of the road 44 retails for $149, the 22 (recommended for powersports, can start a V-8 if needed) a little less. All come packed in a signature orange housing that packs easily and is impervious to most of the environmental challenges of riding, boating, and off-roading.

Note: the optional Powersports Tether accessory is a nifty solution for hooking up hidden batteries that are hard to access in the garage, and impossible when stuck by the side of the road in the middle of the night. This modest add-on works for both charging and starting, and would have saved my back on more than one occasion in the days of having to kick-start a dead-as-a-doornail Shovelhead. Today, when kick starters on street bikes are only found in museums, emergency battery power should be considered an essential.

All WeeGo products are warranteed for 18 months. These are good products from a talented, progressive American company.

amazon’s split personality

For Brands, Cure May Be Worse Than Disease

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Read It Free Helps Subscription Rates How?

As I grow increasingly comfortable with online shopping as an alternative to chasing hard to find items in brick and mortar storefronts, rationalizing clik to add to shopping cart becomes easier and easier as the cost of shipping tumbles. Then came Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is by all indications a very effective loss leader in the effort to tether consumers to mega-site Amazon for all their internet purchases. Patterned after the big box membership warehouse experience, Prime, for a modest annual fee, delivers not only free 2-day shipping on most items, but includes a bunch of other perks as well.

The price is right – for as long as it can last.

The included music feed is perfectly acceptable, eliminating having to subscribe to Pandora, Spotify, or Radio for a premium listening experience. Ditto access to online t.v. content, books, and a number of other features that save time and/or money.

I just discovered that a number of familiar, favorite, and free periodicals are available as well, viewable online or as downloaded Kindle content. Which is how I came across Cycle World, Bonnier’s flagship pub in their motorcycle group stable of powersports publications, as a free read on Amazon.

I’m not sure how the business model for offering up your vanguard bike magazine for free reading moves the bottom line needle. It’s not an option you’d expect to find in a typical subscription pitch; “12 Whole Issues For One Year’s Worth of Reading Only Zero Dollars and Zero Cents!”

Since consolidating the spectrum of motorcycle pubs several years ago by purchasing those niche assets from Hearst first, then Source Interlink, the overall health of print continues to circle the drain, excepting a few standouts like Garden & Gun. The price is right – for as long as it can last.

AIMExpo Says Goodbye to Orlando

You Say Goodbye And I Say…

AIMExpo says goodbye to Orlando

After last year’s buyout of the American International Motorcycle Exposition (AIMExpo) from the original owner MarketPlace Events by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), most market watchers assumed that a) the OEMs that form the backbone of MIC would offer ongoing stability for the still young show, and that b) the event would make the jump across Orlando’s International Drive to the more appropriate, and much larger, North Hall, consolidating the outdoor activities while adding a more expansive venue.

Pack Your Bags. Again.

A month out, AIME dropped the first bombshell, announcing that 2016 would be the last show in Orlando as 2017’s event would hit the road for — the Columbus, Ohio, convention center. Which until now has been best known for hosting Arnold Schwartzeneger’s long-running series of body building championships.

That news hadn’t even completed the first lap when it was announced right before Thursday’s show opening that Columbus was a one and done, and that Las Vegas would welcome dealers in 2018 to a Mandalay Bay event, also in October.

A few select exhibitors hadn’t even finished their chorus of reliable quotes on why Columbus’ “500-mile radius” was key to attracting dealers in order to grow the event (it isn’t, given Peoples Exhibit A, DealerExpo) when the Vegas jump came out of the blue. If there was any question that MIC’s OEMs were wielding their muscle, this relocation eliminated any doubts.

Why It Matters

Why this matters involves pure marketing decisions by the show’s owners, and, like every realtor says, it’s about location, location, location. Powersports (read aftermarket) expos have been tried in Vegas before, and they’ve died in Vegas, even during the red-hot 2000s. OEM dealer meetings, on the other hand, thrive in the desert.

The move has all the earmarks of a purely strategic decision by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki to consolidate their dealer programs closer to home and away from the proximate distraction of Daytona’s Biketoberfest.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed. Orlando remains a major international destination, and both venue and weather remain well suited to the outdoor activities which can’t be offered in a resort hotel facility.

Still, H-D was never a participant, and Kawasaki was a big hole in the lineup this year, after drawing plenty of attention with last year’s massive booth. Ducati was another no-show. Ditto BMW. And so it went.

This year’s swan song seemed almost a little melancholy, like the guy who came alone to the dance and stayed too late. Compared to the previous decade, many of the booths looked like they traveled as overhead luggage.

Warn, Pirelli, S&S, and Avon, among others, didn’t bring the A game of years previous. And speaking of others, Western Powersports, Parts Unlimited, Chrome Specialties, Tucker-Rocky, and Drag Specialties were among the major distributors whose absence, in favor of their own one-off shows for the past several years, severely hurts in the buzz building.

The Magic 8-Ball Says

It could be that the appeal of an aftermarket accessories driven trade show has passed its sell by date. Without support from manufacturers, dealers aren’t likely to make the investment in time and money to visit when much of what they’re selling is already on offer at the afore mentioned distributor sponsored shows. And without dealer support, manufacturers can’t be expected to continue their investment without a decent ROI. And this year’s announced dealer registration figure of just over 2,000 falls, to me, far short of fulfilling that expectation.

AIMExpo will in the future become a new model year bike show by the major manufacturers with some slots occupied by non-OEMs who either lack a distributor hookup, are doing okay with their own dealer direct and consumer direct programs, or just don’t want one.

Nostalgia for the way things were is notable, but unsupportable. Columbus ’17 looks to be the last real expression of the independent powersports aftermarket event.

ubm shuts down dealernews

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Five Decades of Dealernews Now History

In a stunning announcement that dropped December 16, Jim Savas, VP/GM of automotive at media conglomerate UBM Advanstar, announced the immediate end of Dealernews as of December 23, 2015.

After initially making the case for a robust online presence, well supported by more than respectable metrics, Mr. Savas then set January 1, 2016, as the cessation of Dealernews in print, on the web, and across all digital channels.

As of December 18, there was no mention on either Twitter or Facebook of the decision to shut down what many in the powersports industry considered the Gray Lady of motorcycle aftermarket B2B publishing. Continue reading ‘ubm shuts down dealernews’

aimexpo 2015 continues growth curve

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC's purchase of AIMExpo event.

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC’s purchase of AIMExpo event.

AIME Opens Year Three Under New Ownership

In just its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo proved it’s in it to win it, with an exhibitor’s list topping 560, a shortened format making it easier for manufacturers to massage the combined trade plus public components, more OEMs, the revival of the MIA V-twin Made In America® contingent, and another successful round of cross your fingers and hope for yes! the best! weather Central Florida can muster in what we casually refer to as “fall”.

Read more about the powersport industry’s only domestic combined event here, including analysis of format, audience, and the challenges facing retail event marketing in an increasingly online world.

aimexpo 2015 on flickr

AIMExpo 2015

AIMExpo 2015 On Flickr

Now in its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo has grown in size, and 2015 saw nearly 600 exhibitors make the trip to Orlando for the four-day combined trade-retail event.

Included were motorcycle OEMs, off-road vehicles, personal watercraft, aftermarket manufacturers, apparel retailers, and electric vehicles. For a better visual experience view my images on Flickr.

advertising meets recall, wins

Still Selling – Just Unsafe to Ride

When Dealernews published Polaris’ “DO NOT SELL – DO NOT RIDE” bulletin concerning the Slingshot’s steering mechanism (defective ball bearings) and roll bar assembly to dealers in late January, you’d be correct in thinking dealer print and online promos and ads would be pulled until the situation was resolved.

The first public inkling that something was amiss came when the company’s letter to dealers popped up on the brand’s product online forum. That was January 16, less than a year out from the 2014 official public launch and just a few months into production of the reverse sit-in trike designed to take on BRP’s sit-on Spyder.

slingshot parked for safety repairs

Considering the daily barrage at the time of global and constant publicity concerning GM’s failure to clearly and promptly address their otherwise miniscule ignition switch fatal defect, or the ongoing problems of Japan’s Takata Corporation, supplier of proven lethal airbags to the automotive industry, the approach taken by at least two powersport dealer website management firms to allow Polaris’ fledgling Slingshot to remain in their dealer client’s main banner rotator is puzzling to say the least.

Those dealership content management contractors are well paid on the their promise of providing vigilant oversight, facilitating manufacturer communications, and lightning quick content updates to franchisees usually ill-equipped to oversee the day-to-day front end needs of online marketing. Or not.

crisis management – crucial for credibility

Taken together with the lack of transparency by the manufacturer, Polaris, and it’s a perfect example of a communications misfire from the top down that’s disappointing at the very least, lending further credence to the industry’s ongoing need for professional communication managers with the knowledge, skill, and authority to manage the occasional crisis. Consumers deserve better for a three-wheeled product that tops out at nearly $30,000.

There’s been no further word on the progress of this remarkable dealer notification that affected nearly 2,000 already shipped units, so consumers might assume that repairs to the steering rack and rollbar that began in late January have apparently been completed.

orlando (really) likes powersports

Ducati joins growing list of OEMs to display

photo ©2014 john siebenthaler

Powersports Market On Road To Recovery

It’s been nearly a decade since the economic meltdown of the mid-’00s dealt a way harsh wakeup call to a party the powersports community thought would never stop.

The Everest-like growth curve many believed/hoped/wished would go on forever collapsed like a 3-pack a day smoker on an Ironman swim-bike-run.

It’s against that backdrop that last week’s second annual AIMExpo powersports trade and consumer show in Orlando, in just its second year, seems to have planted their flag firmly atop the carcass of the once invincible Dealernews Dealer Expo, whose looming Chicago in December winter wonderland reincarnation of the event brand they once owned outright, seems now officially and forever dead in the court of public opinion. Continue reading ‘orlando (really) likes powersports’

remembering jim hansen

My Jim Hansen Cycle World Trek Memory

I met legendary powersports media icon Jim Hansen for the first time at Cycle World Trek in 2007. He was easy to meet, easier to talk with, and appeared on this Trek riding one of the first Can-Am Spyders to hit the road.

He’d ridden up to Oakhurst, CA, the jumping off point for Trekkers before we headed 130 miles into the Sierra Nevadas for a few days of off-road riding in and around Huntington Lake. Jim swapped his three-wheeler for two and the Spyder was loaded into the event logistics box truck for transport to China Peak.

You might think that an invitation only gathering like Trek that collected some of the best known members of the powersports community would be blessed with insight, talent, resourcefulness, and ability. Um, not always.

video guide to changing a light bulb

Good news! Fewer than a dozen bikers were needed to unload this ride!

It was as if I was watching New Caledonia headhunters seeing their first helicopter. This video demonstrates the combined efforts of Cycle World editors and ad reps, powersports aftermarket manufacturing execs, agency account reps, and industry OEM department heads as they go about solving the ages-old riddle of the Sphinx – what’s the best way to unload a low-slung trike with nothing but a lift gate? Easy! Use a picnic table!

Keep in mind, the object in question weighs in the neighborhood of 700 pounds, give-take. Then count heads hovering to and fro like nervous elephant aunts surrounding an expecting new mother, anxiously waiting to welcome a newcomer to the herd.

you can learn a lot over lunch

In the brief time I knew Jim, he struck me as affable, curious, and capable. We shared the three-stool counter at Jone’s Store just outside Yosemite over lunch on Day One, exchanging small talk and chit-chat. Although his knowledge of the industry and its people was encyclopedic (and mine is anything but) ours was a comfortable conversation that only later would emerge from the background as a crossroads for me in my association with the industry.

Jim was awarded the annual Joe Parkhurst award during that year’s closing ceremony, an insider’s inside honor of respect.

He passed away April 11, 2014. I think he’d appreciate the humor he left behind.




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