I saw several things at the 2007 Dealer Expo and V-Twin Expo that left me pleasantly surprised — it's a departure of sorts for me.
Those of you who have dealt with me over the years know that I can be cranky and that I'm not generally given to wearing rose-colored glasses. I tend to see bad things crouching just over the horizon or lurking behind any press release that crosses by desk.
My wife of 39 years says I'm a curmudgeon who looks for the dark side of any event or topic. That's not entirely true, of course, and we've come to an understanding relationship after all this time.
Which brings me back to the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis and the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati. Both provided several reasons for optimism. Here are some observations:
- Dealers seemed to be much more upbeat than I expected given the softness in many segments and regions. Exhibitors told me dealers were in a buying mood; they weren't just looking as they were last year. "They were spending 20 minutes with me this year," said one Indy exhibitor, "not five minutes like they were doing last year."
- While final numbers weren't available, it seems attendance was down a bit at both shows, but not as much as I would have thought. Dealer pre-registrations were up in the mid-teens, on a percentage basis, for Dealer Expo. But bad weather could have knocked those figures down somewhat.
- China's presence grew substantially at Dealer Expo. The number of companies was about the same as in 2006, but there were more new exhibitors and their impact at the show, in terms of size of booths and number of new products, was significant. The more sophisticated Chinese exhibitors were looking for joint venture partners instead of simply trying to sell product. (continued)