dealer expo credibility gets shredded

everything coming up roses? not so fast

The continuing struggles of the powersports market coupled with the rise of social media haven’t been kind to Advanstar’s Dealer Expo signature event, even less so to its flagship b2b pub Dealernews. This fact was painfully born out when Joel Martin, head of Martin Racing Performance and a leading scooter segment authority, blasted the media giant on his blog for their spin describing last month’s 44th annual trade show. Then he reloaded. In the background I could hear Foster The People humming Pumped Up Kicks.

Mr. Martin took it personally when, after extensively documenting the event for his own blog and YouTube channel, he failed to recognize the franchise version of the very same show.

There’s no disguising how much the exhibitor base has shifted since I vBlog’d the event in 2008 or last walked the show in 2009 while questioning Dealer Expo’s marketing strategy as showing serious signs of strain, an opinion that’s since proven both prophetic and accurate. Meanwhile, Advanstar’s continued attempt to revive a zombie V-Twin show within a show came up snake eyes – again.

winners 0 losers 2

There are no winners here. A shrinking powersport dealer network that depends on industry press for an accurate picture of how the market is performing, where it’s going, and trends to watch for, gets shortchanged on reality. And there’s the brand that is Advanstar, and the issue of trust and reputation management. Independently verified opinion polling? Missing in action – just the self-congratulatory quotes from corporate employees.

It’s true that, especially for first time attendees, the view is more that of green meadows and perpetual sunshine. But for long time participants well aware of the meteoric rise in market performance from the mid ’90’s to the mid ‘oo’s, there’s no masquerading the increasingly dire situation facing brick and mortar retailers.

time to make lemonade

Who then to fault? Aftermarket manufacturers, industry media, and dealers themselves. All can be called to task for repeatedly failing to ask critical questions, invest in essential marketing, and for blindly continuing to embrace a business plan that’s lost its mojo. Other industries have adapted to similar challenges – Performance Racing Industries’ Orlando event comes to mind.

The industry desperately needs a venue or venues that, like any other dedicated channel, provides a well managed opportunity for buyers and sellers to gather in a common marketplace for a couple of days to assess, visit, become informed, learn, and above all profit. It’s a void Marketplace Events hopes to exploit with their newly launched American International Motorcycle Expo set to open next year. Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “dealer expo credibility gets shredded

  1. scooterguy

    Joel Martin? Leading scooter authority? Not any more, he lost that crown a couple years ago. He didn’t like the show because his competitors creamed him. I didn’t think the show was great either, but if you want a credible source for scooter information you should talk to Josh Rogers from Scoot! Magazine, or the guys from Scooterworks or instead… at least those guys are honest.

  2. The Scooter Maven

    I’m sorry, but the anonymity of the internet is a great thing except when your trolling. Since this article is actually getting quite a few hits I figure it was worth a response. I am a highly opinionated person who sometimes will offend people, I do not hesitate at the show to let my opinions be known on the trends like consumers selling on Ebay, Chinese factories selling on Ebay to US consumers, scooter dealers who work from home who dont have licenses which everyone seems to sell to, distributors whose main dumping ground are websites etc… Still I’m a professional and I fully dispute your claim Mr. Anonymous that I am not an expert.

    Let me address your concerns which sound of a personal nature since so many people in the industry are reading this blog. I think those are both fine companies you mention there one is even a former client. I think the show is the show, if you sold then you were lucky to sell this year. There is no ROI on the show. Undisputed. You see people but actual real sales not that many. I hope those guys sold well, but like I said on the blog anyone who tells you business is up at the show is a liar. The show isn’t about selling anymore its about meeting and greeting, a lot of tire kicking. Actually right next to the Scooterworks booth you had 5 ZNEN Motor importers all exhibiting the exact same bikes. My point about the show was who does that? Basically 5 guys all selling based on price. Not service, quality, just on price.

    Yes, if you’re a price point dealer then thats fine, but for consumers this is actually bad. I technically shouldn’t comment the more cheap scooters out there the more parts sell for all the companies you mention, I just dont think its good for the industry to support this.

    I actually had a great conversation with both Mr. McCalleb and Mr. Kolbe at SW they have my respect for turning around SW, keeping Genuine as a leading brand all they have done for the industry. Josh Rogers is a personal friend who I highly recommend and is often ignored especially by Advanstar who again failed to put him in charge of the scooter section and since then I have spoken to upper management at Advanstar and reminded them of him.

    Now as to your concerns as to my expertise I’m sorry but sales or credible sources you won’t get more honesty than what I am giving you. I would not hesitate to say I am one of the few experts in this field in the USA and I have exhibited longer at the show than both companies you mentioned that is undisputed. I have had a booth at the show since 2001 every single year.

    As to industry investigations and blogs. There are no more reporters who actually dig into what is happening. Wrongful death suits from former or current Dealer Expo exhibitors you won’t see that on and that was the point of my article. Can I write about it? No. Companies that are closing, you won’t hear about it. New owners, new investors? You won’t hear about it and if you do there is spin on it. Top guy fired or leaving a company? You won’t hear about it because they won’t tell the dealers. There is no real reporting anymore and that was also part of what I said. Hence why you see an article that claims a 500% increase in attendance. Why would anyone thing that buyers from Costco or would be good for a brick and mortar industry?

    If you want honesty and integrity you’re in the wrong industry my friend. The bad economy shows what people are made of and our family and employees are still here. We didn’t burn our warehouse down (that was another scooter company), we didn’t run away, we went towards the flames and helped rescue as many brands as we could. We are bigger today because of that. Like many companies we took our kicks in the bad economy, but I feel we know more and are the “experts” because of this.

    As to my personal expertise all I can say is I learn something new everyday, but I would consider myself an expert in this field since I have worked in it for a decade and I would not hesitate to debate you one on one man to man if you would post your name, but clearly you didn’t.

    I can only respond with this:
    UM – United Motors of America, Keeway Southeast, CPI Taiwan, Daelim Motors USA, Diamo – LS Motorsports, Italjet America, TNG, Yamati – Powersports Factory, 12 Vespa stores the list goes on. 10 companies in 4 years, over 100,000 vehicles on the road. Who will service them if there are no parts?

    We are here providing a service for the dealers, we are the last and only source in many cases for an industry that went from a stock brick and mortar industry to a fly by night anything goes Just in Time sell from catalog world in less than ten years.

    Consumer protection, Lemon Laws, you have no idea how many lawsuits we have prevented thanks to us rescuing many parts from going into the garbage. Any dealer who sold a brand new United Motors scooter in 2010 in Arizona or in Texas will know that it was MRP who saved them from the state coming in on them hard. I have letters in my office from principals at many dealerships because when they get sued for failing to provide parts on that third repair for a brand that went out of business MRP saved them from a $8,000 judgement, so its not a perfect business, but we have our function in the industry. The fly by night guy who is open on average of 2 to 3 years will not even begin to think about these issues, he’s too busy trying to stay in business. I personally have seen over 1,000 dealers apply and go out of business in 10 years so this is a numbers game, so if I am an expert in anything is in what a small business needs to do to stay in business in the Powersports Industry.

    Furthermore if someone calls me looking for an LML or a vintage part I never hesitate to send them to Scooterworks, there’s sufficient business for everyone. That’s where you show what you’re made of. Both Partsforscooters Mr. John Celeste and all the owners of ScooterWorks have all created fine companies. Its a small industry and anyone that’s still here its because they are survivors. They have my respect for that.

    Now here’s an expert opinion and some friendly advice. This industry is still saturated. There is too much overlap. I had 2 well known Chinese players come to me at the show asking about investment or buying them out cents on the dollar. Will I? No. We still need consolidation. Too many companies doing the exact same thing.

    Does anyone here remember Motorcycle Stuff? Tiger Shark? same concept. We need consolidation. So if someone has a multi-million dollar venture capital firm this industry is still up for grabs and as an expert I would tell everyone put aside your egos and sell. I would help consolidate an industry full of redundancy, full of ego, and full of companies that can be purchased for cents on the dollar. In California alone there are a dozen Chinese importers who sell vehicles to US dealers below cost, they grow and grow get in millions of debt that cannot be re-paid to the Chinese factories and then eventually implode because they trusted a Chinese national or American Chinese to be in charge of it. They get money back from the government for bringing in dollars and they know its a pyramid yet continue. The broke US dealer who needs a $500 scooter could care less about all this, but at a higher level we feed this endless cycle and the Dealer Show has been feeding this trend the last 5 years allowing these people to meet with a US consumer base that could care less about EPA, DOT, or compliance issues. An endless cycle which has created a great opportunity for the right groups.

    There are economic principals at war here that are not sustainable, but can still be profitable to the right group of people. I as a small expert have done this without investors, the right group comes in. Well the whole market is up for grabs.

    Then again what would I know right?

    Joel Martin
    = Yes an expert in Scooters AKA The Scooter Maven

  3. John Siebenthaler Post author

    Thanks for detailing your earned status as a powersports voice of authority Joel. An impressive resume for sure.

    Your comments beg the question, is it time to consider a targeted scooter summit between OEMs, aftermarket, distributors, and select dealers?

  4. NathanielDahl

    In 2010, Fly Scooters (kaput) introduced the Scout – a clone of the Honda Cub that was touted as the best a Chinese OEM could produce, the result of multiple iterations of quality improvements demanded by the (USA-based) Fly people going back and forth to the manufacturer (DYK) until their stringent standards were satisfied.

    Here’s the end result:

    If that’s the result of a USA-based brand name’s stringent quality requirements, then I wonder what the typical factory-spec Znen, Jonway, or Zongshen scooter – that is taken from crate to showroom floor, looks like beneath the plastic!

    What the powersports industry needs, as much if not more than consolidation, is exposure and transparency – these sub-par factories that ship such garbage should have their poor quality fully brought into the light for all to see.

    But where is the powersports press? The above post is on a discussion forum. Why aren’t any industry publications tearing down these scooters to have a close look at the welds? Why aren’t reporters getting into the faces of the USA distributors of these dangerous bikes and asking them some tough questions?

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