In 2004, digital photography was still chiseling away at film, and smartphones with cameras their equal weren’t yet on the horizon, which means my visual record of a one-time-only first time ride is a little sparse.
With a nod towards a simpler time, when digital distractions were non-existent and Saturdays meant itching to get out of the house and on the road, this piece does a little off-roading into the unique geography that makes up the Oakhurst-Yosemite-Huntington Lake triangle in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
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.
Relaunch Has New Focus, Reach
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 →