The 2018 AIMExpo Powersports tradeshow kicks off today at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Holding the show in Las Vegas at the same time as other motorcycle events including the Monster Energy Cup and Las Vegas Bike Fest is a massive step for the leading American two-wheel tradeshow and as a result, Clark County has even declared this time as “Powersports Industry Week.” One of the key figures of the event is Larry Little and as the General Manager of the Motorcycle Industry Commission’s Events department, Little sees the direct return that the show has across all segments of the business, on-road and off-road. We recently took the chance to talk with Little about the intentions of the AIMExpo, the benefits that every attendee is able to take advantage of, and what the future holds for motorcycling as a whole. 

When we looked at the dates we had the opportunity to select a date that would enable us to be concurrent with the Monster Energy Cup. Getting the industry together for other activities is important so we worked with Feld to make sure the dates would be the same. When the show first launched in Orlando, it was the same weekend as Monster Energy Cup and there were attendees at the show that said how they had to travel from the trade portion of the show to Las Vegas for the race, so it was great to package that together. Feld will run shuttles from the show on Saturday to the stadium for the race and that's a great step.

The other element that is around the same time is the V Twin lifestyle Las Vegas Bike Fest, which has happened for seventeen years. That event is typically the week before our date, but we knew the promoter and they surveyed their key people, all of whom said they would love to be at the same time. The V Twin event will be in the Freemont Street area downtown and they will have a lot of international visitors just to go on the ride.

The final thing happening at the same at as the AIMExpo is the Ride For Kids charity ride. We worked with the local organizers and the ride will start on Sunday south of the Strip and will then go for an hour through the hills and wind up at AIMExpo. The festivities that are traditionally a part of their event will occur at the show on Sunday when the ride shows up.

Clark County gave us the Powersports Industry Week proclamation and it recognizes that there will be close 100,000 visitors to the area just for the AIMExpo, Monster Energy Cup, and Las Vegas Bike Fest. That is a good reason to put together so many things in the name of the Powersports Industry Week, because we are a big industry and a lot of big industries use Las Vegas as their gathering place.

The Motorcycle Industry Council owns the AIMExpo and some of the numbers they have gathered recently show that the off-road segment is one of the only areas that is growing in new unit sales. There were 50,000 new units for off-road competition sold last year, which are numbers the manufacturers share with the retail sales report the MIC produces. We looked at the first six months of this year and it's again up with 28,000 units sold through the first six months. Off-road is a key component and we have a few electric motorcycle exhibitors at the show this year.

Stacyc, which is basically a small bicycle with an electric motor and battery pack attached, had their launch to the dealer community last year at the AIMExpo and they are coming back this year. I saw them as a brilliant product because it is a product that answers all of the questions that need to be answered with being quiet, accessible, and something that has the barriers that other things have, from a parent needing to do much to get it ready and an ability to ride it in a cul-de-sac with no issue. It's cool to see them take off and do well. The Harley-Davidson dealer that we worked with last year in Columbus, Ohio, to promote the event took one look at the Stacyc and became a dealer because he has grandkids that want to learn how to ride. There are sparks of light for the future of the business.

There has been a lot of talk that there are a lot of challenges for the business and I agree that some dealers have down sales, but I think it's a more of a "business challenge" that we can overcome compared to a business that is challenged with outside issues. I feel that dealers need to think of ways they can change with the times and then step up. There are hidden signs that we don't see occurring at the mainstream level of the marketplace. After talking with importers and distributors of Chinese products that do not get reported as heavily because they are products like motor-assisted bicycles that a young adult may use to ride to ride back and forth between places, but there are close to 50,000 units that are sold for less than $2000 and that means there are that many more people throwing a leg over something with two wheels and a motor. We worry about how we will convince new people to ride but in reality, we already have them, we just have to be smart as we encourage them to consider riding motorcycles for fun or transportation. That's information that we will share at the AIMExpo this year that things are upbeat but challenging as we get people in their communities to be part of motorcycling.

On the consumer side, the western US has a great off-road community that participates in moto, side-by-sides, and ATVs, so we have traction when it comes to getting the consumers to come to the show for Powersports Industry Week.

We have to remember that there is a large portion of the market that does not sell through distributor channels, there are companies that sell dealer direct and consumer direct. The show gives them the opportunity to see the dealership customers face to face, so the dealer can understand the new products and why they were developed. We always come away from the show with stories of how dealers and exhibitors meet people they would likely not have connected with otherwise. It's not just business-to-business or aftermarket brand to the dealer, but really industry to industry. There are companies at the show that produce products for other segments of the industry and a lot of that business goes on at the show. The AIMExpo gets between 2000 to 2800 dealer attendees each year, and we expect the same this year. It's a good size audience for the industry to do business with directly.

We survey the audiences after the show, from the dealers to the exhibitors to the consumers, and we always find that the consumers really appreciate the ability to talk to the people at brands that design and develop the products that they want to purchase, because they have knowledge about products that the dealer might not have. That's one of the most important things about the show.