AKRON—The Specialty Equipment Market Association and the Tire Industry Association are looking to beef up tire manufacturer participation and dealer attendance at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas after a number of major tire makers opted out of this year's event.
At a press conference in Akron, top officials of both associations vowed to work closely together to make the Tires, Wheels & Equipment section of the SEMA show more of a tire exhibition. They also acknowledged the need to re-engage tire manufacturers in the show.
“We are concerned that probably not everybody is on the same page in terms of understanding both of what the needs and of what the show represents,” said SEMA president and CEO Chris Kersting.
The two associations “are going to work pretty closely to understand what the industry needs a little bit more and then to take some actions so that they are better able to realize the best opportunities,” he added.
Tire dealer attendance at this year's show numbered 2,646, said Tom Myroniak, vice president of marketing and membership services for SEMA, with 5,237 total registrants in the tire and wheel category. This is the No. 2 category of buyers at the show, representing 9.4 percent of total buyers, he said.
Overall, attendance at the 2009 SEMA Show of more than 120,000 was down 15 percent from 2008, the Diamond Bar, Calif.-based trade association said. Of these, nearly a quarter were from outside the U.S.
The number of exhibiting companies also declined, slipping 12 percent from 2008 to 1,750 exhibiting companies, Myroniak said. The TWE section drew 290 exhibiting companies, including 66 for the first time, but lacked the presence of a number of major tire manufacturers and marketers.
Among 2008 tire exhibitors not participating in 2009 were: Continental Tire North America Inc.; Goodyear/Dunlop; East Bay Tire Co.; Federal Corp.; GITI Tire USA Inc.; Tire Kingdom International; Titan International Inc.; Toyo Tire USA Corp.; Treadways Corp.; and Yokohama Tire Corp.
They joined Kumho Tire USA Inc. and Michelin North America Inc.—which opted out in 2008—and Bridgestone Americas Inc., which hasn't exhibited in several years, as leading tire makers/marketers not present at this year's show.
Noting that when TIA's predecessor association made the decision in the 1990s to forgo its own annual show and align itself with SEMA, “the industry jumped on board,” said Roy Littlefield, Bowie, Md.-based TIA's executive vice president. “So here we are now, what do we do? Do we fix it or do we look at alternatives? And we're going to dig in and try to fix it.”
To begin that process, TIA president Wayne Croswell has sent letters to all of the tire companies asking them to participate in a series of focus groups with representatives from TIA and SEMA.
“I think the timing is right to pull everybody together to figure out how to work together to make this show as valuable as it can be for as many people as can be,” Littlefield said.
He stressed that TIA needs to get the manufacturers engaged again in the show “and a lot of that I blame on TIA.”
Littlefield noted that in the early years of the alliance with SEMA, TIA struggled with its own identity. “Therefore it became easy for the exhibitors and attendees to begin to identify it as a SEMA Show with a tire component. Now the association is wrestling with how to make it a tire show,” he said.
Asked about whether the SEMA Show, which is considered an aftermarket performance exhibition, could also include a commercial and OTR tire element, Littlefield said, “I don't think anything is out of the realm (of possibility). I think what SEMA has said to us is, 'Let's find out what the manufacturers want, and let's see if it makes sense to respond.' ”