INDY LIVE 2012: Expectations mount as 'The Big Show' opens

Publish Date: 
Feb 16, 2012
By Mary Green Slepicka

The energy in the Indiana Convention Center is the highest in recent memory as the Dealer Expo and American V-Twin Dealer Show launch their three-day run in Indianapolis.

More than 700 exhibitors, literally thousands of new product introductions and a crowd estimated to approach 20,000 are making today, Saturday and Sunday once again the biggest weekend in the powersports industry.

Dealers are shaking off the recession with a customer base that is once again starting to buy more product, particularly aftermarket parts, gear and accessories. And if recent market performance is any indication, it stands to reason that retail orders placed this weekend could exceed last year’s estimated tally of $145 million.

“The good news, as the industry enters the prime spring selling months, is that new motorcycle sales overall were up slightly for calendar year 2011,” says Kerry Graeber, brand director for the Dealer Expo and American V-Twin Dealer Show. “And while we would have certainly liked to see a bigger increase, the fact that the industry seems to be stabilizing is significant.

“Additionally,” Graeber adds, “manufacturers are reporting that January numbers were up, so we’re optimistic about 2012.”

With new vehicle sales relatively flat for the last three years, and with more enthusiasts pinching pennies by sprucing up their current bikes, the aftermarket has been driving the industry to a large extent.

“A number of our Dealer Expo exhibitors are enjoying significant sales increases, and are looking to expand their space in the show,” Graeber says. “Key product categories – tires, for example – are showing strong growth, which indicates that motorcycle usage remains vibrant.

“To see the spending for parts and maintenance items increasing bodes well for the health of the industry,” Graeber says.

New attendee groups. Show management reports that pre-registered attendance is up over 2011, with strong gains in new buyer groups – particularly in specialty parts and accessories, service and installation businesses, e-tailers and big box retailers. Pre-show registrations from online retailers are up 23 percent over last year, specialty P&A store registrations – retailers with “significant buying power” – are up 50 percent, and service/installation businesses known for making volume purchases are up 148 percent, according to Heather Erickson, marketing director for the shows.

“Indy delivers the largest pool of prospective buyers, from big-box retailers and distributors to multiline franchise and independent dealers,” Erickson notes. “And over three-quarters of attendees have the authority to place the order.”

Additionally, international retailer registrations are up 10 percent, pointing to the continued strength of Dealer Expo as a global event, she says. Buyers from more than 30 countries attended the 2011 Dealer Expo.

Indy has also been expanding geographically, attracting more retailer attendance from beyond the “driving” range. Last year’s show welcomed 11 percent more retailers from the Southwest and 24 percent more from California, Erickson says.

New features, and a brand-new event. The features within “the big show” continue to grow. This year marks the launch of the American V-Twin Dealer Show, a co-located event designed from the ground up for the V-Twin market. The show answers the requests from exhibitors and dealers who want to be able to “see everything” in one location over one weekend, and yet still maintain the uniqueness of the V-Twin industry.

Even though the American V-Twin Show is considered a “separate” event, anyone who is registered to attend AVTDS also has full access to the Dealer Expo – important, since many major manufacturers, such as Performance Machine, are exhibiting in the other halls. And vice versa – for many metric dealers are now carrying parts and accessories for the V-Twin market.

Another big change is the educational component. Between the 30-plus classroom seminars offered by Dealership University, several vendor presentations, Dealernews LIVE panel discussions and other events, INDY 2012’s educational offering is possibly the largest brand-neutral (and free) dealer training program in the industry.

NPA is back, and bigger than ever, with a two-phase pre-owned vehicle auction that will sell off 75 premium Harley-Davidson models before launching into the metric sale on Saturday afternoon.

Once the auction is over on Saturday evening, everyone will head over to the Lucas Oil Stadium – home to Super Bowl XLVI two weeks ago – for what could possibly be the largest Annual Industry Party ever produced.