When the American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) opens its doors at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Oct. 16-20 2013, Larry Little and Mike Webster will finally realize a vision decades in the making.
AIMExpo’s vision is to bring together industry, press, dealers and consumers in a single arena that creates a grand stage for motorcycling in the U.S. and North America, and delivers an efficient and energetic market-timed expo platform for B2B and B2C in the motorcycle industry.
The genesis of the idea for a show of this scale in North America was born when Little attended his first EICMA show in the early ‘90s. “I was a member of the press at that time, and I got to observe what was going on. Everyone was introducing new models, and then a couple days later, the doors got beaten down by the consumers,” remembers Little. “I came back completely wowed and energized by the whole scene. It’s so much more alive than anything I’ve seen over here.”
When Little returned, he shared his thoughts with Webster, who was producing trade and consumer shows for Advanstar at the time. The timing just wasn’t right. OEMs were spending big money producing their own U.S. dealer meetings, and creating an experience like that at EICMA just wasn’t a reality … then.
Fast-forward some 20 years. Little had left his position at Cycle World when his phone rang. It was Webster on the line. He’d taken on the role of president of the trade show division of Marketplace Events, and with the changing economy, he was ready to pick up the conversation about a new show for the North American marketplace they’d started many years ago.
Little signed on as vice president and general manager of the Marketplace Events Motorcycle Group, and started working to make the team’s vision of a show where the entire industry can come together under one roof a reality.
Using EICMA as a template, the AIMExpo team knew they wanted to host the show in the autumn to coincide with OEM new model launches.
“Americans look to Italy each year to see the new OEM product. What we identified early from that experience is that the critical component that exists over there that hasn’t existed over here is getting the press to turn out,” relates Little. “If you ensure the media comes, it suddenly makes sense to introduce new products at the show … That is the one thing that would separate us from anything done in North America.”
The AIMExpo team hopes this level of media attention will attract a wide scope of exhibitors and attendees — from OEMs and aftermarket exhibitors to dealers, riders and consumers new to the sport.
A vital component of setting a stage of international magnitude was selecting the correct venue. “The venue, the city and the geographic locationof the AIMExpo’s new home combined to make it the choice for our new venture,” says Little. “The idea of hosting the expo in a ‘destination city’ was always a factor in finding the right fit, and we truly believe that’s what we have with our decision. We’re excited to take the continued development of the event into its next phase.”
Industry partnerships are also key to the success of the event, and the AIMExpo team has announced that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation will hold an international conference in association with the event. The conference will draw hundreds of participants from around the world, including OEM representatives, and will be focused on a highly scientific presentation of motorcycle safety education and training.
The group is in talks to create an Italian presence at the show as well. "America is a very important market for Italian companies, and we are looking forward to the fresh approach in North America of the AIMExpo," says Pier Francesco Caliari, managing director of ANCMA and EICMA’s Milan organizer.
With the location and dates secured, and a growing list of partners and vendors, AIMExpo is cementing plans to execute their vision.
Attendees will be able to visit the traditional show inside the convention center to see all of the new products, and then they can go outside to sample it and, in some cases, bolt those products onto their units.
“At EICMA, the outdoor activity portion is where a lot of additional excitement is generated,” says Little. “You can ride demo bikes, you can watch the stunt shows, you can watch freestyle guys. Our outdoor space is quite significant in that it has the capability to do all those things. We’ll have room for the demo trucks, room to build dirt tracks if we want to, and it’s all just outside the convention center.”
While media buzz and consumer participation are key, Little is clear that dealers are core to the success of AIMExpo. “Our goal is to get dealers on the front end by bringing in the OEs. We’re pretty close on that,” says Little. He says we can anticipate the announcement of OEM participation by the end of the year.
With 12 months to go until the doors open, there’s a lot of hard work ahead for the team at AIMExpo, but Little says his growing group of industry veterans and powersports enthusiasts is up to the challenge. “I’m a neophyte on the show side, but I am surrounded by absolute experts. We were very blessed that we had Cinnamon Kernes on from the get-go. Having had a 10-plus year career at Advanstar in operations, she knew the people in the marketplace and knows how to execute a successful show. It has been a real labor of love, I’ve never been working at a startup and that’s personally very exciting and rewarding. I’ve never worked this hard and had this much fun. We’re creating something that the market’s really looking for — we’re going to add value to the marketplace,” concludes Little.