Since the height of the pandemic, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has been hard at work trying to keep dealers and riders connected during a time of vast isolation. AIMExpo 2022, which took place Jan. 19-21, was the first time the motorcycle and powersports industry had gathered together in two years. Since planning began for that last expo, MIC has been navigating its new Ride With Us program, various government initiatives and plans for the upcoming 2023 AIMExpo.
We spoke with Erik Pritchard, president and CEO of MIC, to get a closer look at what MIC has been up to for the last 18 months, what’s coming down the pipeline and his outlook on the powersports market going into next year.
MPN: Can you provide an update on the various initiatives MIC has overseen this year?
EP: The Motorcycle Industry Council laid out ambitious plans to help the powersports industry grow and thrive, with a strategy that includes market expansion, government relations, stakeholder engagement and communications. We’ve seen tremendous momentum, which has laid the foundation to get even more done.
Our updated Ride With Us market expansion initiative was officially launched in 2021, and we began delivering Moto Intros: a 30-minute first-ride experience for people curious about on- and off-road motorcycling. In the past 18 months, we’ve expanded the Moto Intros to more than 15 events, including events adjacent to powersports (Overland Expos, the California Capital Air Show in Sacramento and SEMA). We are also excited as the team prepares to launch a national social media campaign and new website, RideWithUs.com, later this fall.
Bringing new riders to the table is only part of our work. The MIC Government Relations team has been working with legislators at federal, state and local levels to preserve and protect the powersports industry and our consumers’ rights. From meeting with Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to webinars with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to funding for expanded trail access to tariff and trade issues, national safety standards and ensuring proposed legislation is fair to the industry, our Government Relations (GR) team continues to work hard.
One of the major issues facing our industry is PFAS, chemicals that can be found in or used to produce a range of products such as riding gear, vehicle components, semiconductors and chrome plating. Federal and state governments have introduced bills to ban its use or force state registries to list products that contain PFAS. Our GR team and technical program staff have formed a working group to examine PFAS legislation and proposals and to develop a comprehensive approach to federal and state regulations. MIC member companies with vested interest in PFAS are asked to contact Eric Barnes at [email protected] to join this working group. Barnes, MIC technical programs vice president, says, “PFAS presents a major powersports industry challenge.”
Building up the powersports industry requires all stakeholders to work together, so the MIC doubled down on efforts to reach potential members. That work has paid off. Membership is up, and there is a healthy mix of businesses. In 2022, MIC Membership Manager Lisa Delaney worked across departments to help create more member benefits and opportunities, including media and influencer exposure and member spotlights in the MIC RideReport weekly digital newsletter. Anyone interested in joining the MIC should contact Lisa at [email protected].
The MIC Communications team continues to secure earned media in top non-endemic, consumer and business news outlets, including: Forbes, Newsweek, Fox Weather (national), ABC4 in Salt Lake City, CBS8 in Las Vegas, Men’s Journal, Hagerty and more. The MIC RideReport also provides in-the-moment updates on the work the MIC is doing on behalf of the powersports industry. We encourage everyone in the industry to sign up for the free weekly newsletter at www.mic.org/ridereport.
During the pandemic, we also launched a new virtual Symposium Series to bring vital information to MIC membership in real-time. We have hosted 20 symposia on topics ranging from the industry’s economic outlook to best practices for dealerships to electric vehicles.
MPN: What legislative issues is MIC most concerned about right now, and how has MIC helped to inform politicians about the powersports’ industry’s concerns?
EP: Every day, the MIC Government Relations team is working with law and policymakers in Washington, D.C. and state capitols around the country. From PFAS and tariffs to preserving access to land and enhancing safety legislation, the MIC GR team engages at every level of state and federal governments. Over the past two years, MIC worked with partner organizations to secure a reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program that provides $85 million per year for trail development, maintenance and educational programs. We also secured funding for tourism at the Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency, which has already paid off in the form of a million dollar grant to a Minnesota off-highway vehicle (OHV) park. And we secured permanent $900 million/year funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog to improve roads and trails on federal lands in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS).
MPN: How is MIC getting more people — younger and older — out riding?
EP: The MIC’s market expansion program, Ride With Us, is purpose-built to get more people of all ages to ride. From hands-on Moto Intros to a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, Ride With Us is inspiring more riders, encouraging them to explore and engage, and working to integrate them into our community.
Ride With Us is on the cusp of rolling out a national spot to reach potential riders with a message to inspire them to ride.
MPN: What is your outlook for the powersports industry in 2023 and beyond? Is the surge from the pandemic sustainable? What have we learned from the past couple of years that the industry will likely continue, and what segments of powersports have seen the greatest rise in interest/sales? Do you see that trend continuing?
EP: Sales across all powersports saw a surge during the pandemic. Even better news: Sales through the first half of 2022 have remained strong. That indicates resilience in our industry, even amid ongoing supply chain challenges, strains on the economy and changes in people’s behavior as pandemic restrictions ease.
Since the pandemic, more people have taken to outdoor activities and adventures close to home with family and friends, and the powersports industry is uniquely positioned to provide products for these activities. For example, the dual-purpose and off-highway motorcycle categories rose 63.7% and 40.7% respectively in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2019 (the last year before the pandemic).
But as more people resume travel and attend in-person events such as concerts, ball games and festivals, keeping new riders riding and inspiring more people to start riding will continue to be a priority. This is why the MIC’s members are investing in the Ride With Us initiative to ensure potential and current riders have access to information on training, epic places to ride, finding their riding community and other tips.
MPN: What can you tell us about next year’s AIMExpo so far?
EP: We are really excited for our 2023 show, taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center Feb. 15-17, which we anticipate will be double the size of last year. Tucker Powersports will again be co-locating their annual dealer show at AIMExpo. LeMans Corp. (Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties) will also be attending as well as hundreds of other aftermarket, OEM and professional service providers, and we’re bringing back our main-stage education platform, “Disruptive Thinking,” to the show floor. The platform features MIC Symposium-inspired content with industry experts, thought leaders and influencers as headliners.
We’ll also focus on new products from top manufacturers, including an emphasis on the four-wheel and electric bicycle market segments. And of course, AIMExpo wouldn’t be complete without the AIMExpo Industry Party powered by Tucker. While we call it a party, it’s so much more. It’s where the networking magic happens. Check for more information at www.aimexpousa.com.
MPN: Why is it important for dealers to attend trade shows like AIMExpo, and how can they make their time there “worth it?”
EP: AIMExpo is the largest powersports tradeshow in North America, and not only is it a platform to engage with folks from all corners of our industry, but it’s also where you can learn about and discuss important issues currently facing our industry. Dealers can also connect directly with MIC staffers, including our government relations team, membership team and communications team.
We’ll also have an expanded AIMExpo Dealer Education series, classroom-style education off the show floor. Topics will include sales and marketing business solutions, finance and insurance (F&I), staff retention, consumer engagement and more.
Face-to-face meetings are still the most valuable way to do business, and for dealers, it’s a great opportunity to speak directly to manufacturers and aftermarket companies. Plus, they’ll get to see, touch and try some of the newest products out there.
This mix of industry meetings, show floor exhibits and specials, educational panels, after-hours events and networking opportunities makes AIMExpo the best way for dealers to kick off their year.