Recharging the industry
AIMExpo makes final preparations for first-of-its-kind powersports show in U.S.
When the American International Motorcycle Expo concept was first announced in early 2012, the event seemed ages away. Now the inaugural show, built for dealers, manufacturers, aftermarket suppliers, service providers, consumers and the press, is knocking at the powersports industry’s door, and many are on board to answer that call.
The show kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 16 with two-and-a-half days of trade-only activities. AIMExpo then transforms on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 18 to a consumer-facing event that runs through Sunday, Oct. 20.
AIMExpo will begin in top-notch fashion as a grand opening session is planned at the Chapin Theater within the Orange County Convention Center first thing in the morning on Wednesday, before the show’s 9 a.m. opening. The ceremony, which will last about 30 minutes, will feature AIMExpo “Champion” Kenny Roberts along with some still-secret spectacles. Larry Little and Mike Webster of show producer Marketplace Events said the launch is a can’t-miss event for dealers, exhibitors and the press.
“Basically it’s going to be kicking off the whole concept of the AIMExpo and why we’re here, and really it’s our opportunity to just make a statement,” said Little, vice president and general manager of Marketplace Events’ Motorcycle Group.
Following the grand opening, the crowd will move toward the expo hall, where there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony before attendees are allowed in the doors.
The Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo, which is expected to be a big dealer draw, will then kick off at 11 a.m. with sessions in Sales & Marketing, Digital Solutions, Service & Operations and Powering Profits running concurrently. In total, dealers will be able to choose from 40 sessions throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. More details on those sessions can be found within the pages of this issue.
On Wednesday and Thursday night, AIMExpo attendees and exhibitors will also be treated to a happy hour following the 6 p.m. closing of the expo hall. Little said this networking time was well thought out, with consideration made for everyone’s time.
“The reason this works is everybody’s welcome; it gives everyone a chance to network for an hour after the show, as the show ends, but then you still have an opportunity to go to dinner,” he said, adding that he expects many people will take advantage of Pointe Orlando, with restaurants, entertainment and more, a short walk away from the convention center and nearby hotels.
Fresh air opportunities
Along with the expo hall, education sessions and happy hours, dealers will have access to AIMExpo Outdoors, a demo area just a walk away from the OCCC that allows attendees to catch some fresh air while taking their turns on the latest vehicles from Yamaha, Suzuki, KYMCO and EBR before customers take test rides the following days.
“I think the worst possible thing would be that if you’re a dealer, and the consumer has the opportunity to ride the product, and you haven’t, that’s probably not a good dynamic,” Little said. “You want to make sure that you know as much or a little bit more than the consumer when he walks into your store.”
He added, “I suspect the smarter dealers will hang around at least for Friday to find out what consumer sentiment is about those machines as well, so they have a leg up before they go back home.”
AIMExpo Outdoors will include A- and B-rated off-road courses, offering different levels of difficulty, depending on the riders’ ability and the capabilities of the ATVs and side-by-sides ridden. Former Grand National champion Mike Kidd is designing each course. A street course will also be available, catering to Yamaha FZ-09 demos, among others.
During the consumer days, even more AIMExpo Outdoors activities will open up. An Adventure Challenge course, which is being created under the consultation of an expert involved in the BMW MOA rally, will allow consumers to bring their own adventure bikes to run the course.
Cycle World will also run a Dynojet dyno for riders, with proceeds to benefit charity, and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is offering Introductory Experience courses in street motorcycle, dirt bike, ATV and side-by-side.
“They’re actually going to have four different ranges set up for their four different types of riding, so a consumer will be able to come in during the consumer days and basically in an hour get an introductory experience. We’re promoting to the consumer that you can come to the show and learn to ride,” Little explained.
Creating the outdoor space has opened opportunities not only for manufacturers ready to show off their new rides, but also for AIMExpo, which was looking to get more excitement from the off-road side of the industry.
“As the side-by-side activity, especially, ramped up from a demo prospective, it caught the interest of many, many aftermarket companies that were more oriented toward those products,” Little said. “I would say that there’s some good scooter coverage as well with the number of scooter exhibitors that we’ve got, so the word motorcycle is more generic, and we use that in the name of the show, but we go to great pains to talk about motorcycles and the greater powersports industry in most of our messaging.”
AIMExpo announced Sept. 10 that it had signed its 350th exhibitor, Warn Industries. Due to the volume of exhibitors and the availability of the outdoor space, AIMExpo is already seeing consumer interest in three-day passes, allowing them access from Friday afternoon through Sunday.
“Based on the size and what they’ve heard about it, and the fact that they might want to do street demos and dirt demos and everything else, they just believe that they want to come back more than one day,” said Webster, president of the trade show division of Marketplace Events.
In fact, the show has gained so much enthusiasm that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has proclaimed the week of the show “AIMExpo Motorcycle and Powersports Industry Week.”
“That’s very good, especially for the local community, in driving the community and driving consumers to the show. It’s also a testament to the city’s commitment to being the host and welcoming everybody that’s coming in from out of the area and locally,” Webster said.
Though half of the show is dedicated to consumers, AIMExpo sees the entire event as being beneficial to the industry as a whole and the dealers who help move the product.
“Even the seminars that are being delivered to the consumers, the dealers definitely benefit from that. The content and how it’s building, that’s going to stimulate consumers to do more, get more excited about motorcycling, buy more aftermarket stuff or whatever, so there’s residual effect on the dealers for that, which is good,” Webster said.
It’s clear that after more than a year of planning, the crew at AIMExpo is looking forward to a well-attended, industry-charging show.