Monday, November 14, 2011

The SEMA show is over, and in this case what happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas. The Show was great, more than just cool cars, eye candy and parts. All the display halls were full, unlike past years. Huge numbers of people attended, the correct people, not inflated numbers with all the shop rats. People who were actually looking for product, not just swag. Another interesting observation; everyone was really up-beat and smiling. This is a good thing, because it means customers are starting to spend again, things are looking up for the automotive hobby. Over the next few weeks I will be talking about some of the new products unveiled at the SEMA show. I was once again invited to be a New Product Judge, and I found some great new products. I was still confused how people can submit an exhaust system as new, to each their own, I did find some great 'new' products. Watch this space....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Something new

Welcome back.
saying this to myself more that anything else....

Watch this space, after the SEMA Show 2011 I will be posting something new each week.
Starting with New Products, moving on to all the coolness of the worlds biggest show about toys for guy and gal gear heads.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Some suppliers need take another look at the enthusiast market

What is wrong with the thought process of people these days?

I am building what could be considered a totally different Hot Rod. Oh sure you say, different, right, Hot Rods have been done, what could be new?
My approach is new enough that I have managed to get sponsor support, and I am not going into the project details here, once I get started I will post progress and pictures so stay tuned.

My point is, I just don’t understand the thinking of some suppliers, or potential suppliers, no names because I don’t want to embarrass them for their lack of sight and vision.

I have posted a description of what I am up to on several industry websites, and I have had some success, however…

I get a response from a television producer, he tells me they can help out, cool I think, this could be interesting and I give him a call.

Turns out he didn’t want to help me; he wanted to pick my brain about my build to use it on a planned show, NOT. He got next to nothing on that approach, and every time I tried to talk about my build, which was the whole point, he kept coming up with excuses as to why the concept would net work rather than exploring how to make it work.

I have noticed a lot of that attitude across the aftermarket, people like the approach and the concept, but when it comes to supporting the plan, they come up with endless reasons why they cannot. Seems that if a major magazine, the SEMA show and television are not involved they are not interested.

What is it about actually having products in front of the end user, the people who buy from their local speed/custom shop?
Television is good, however everyone knows these shows are nothing but glorified commercials, and that people who watch these shows really don’t buy the products?
Lots of people do watch these shows, but think about it, those who own custom vehicles are probably either working on them or driving them, or doing yard work for their wife so they can play with their car/truck later on.
The SEMA show is a great show, I love it, and a company’s product will be seen by a lot of buyers, great you sell products, and they end up in a warehouse or dusty corner of some shop. Does the enthusiast even know about said product? Do they know anyone who uses said product?
What I am saying here is that the trade show is only a small part of product recognition, those products need to get out to where the enthusiast is!

Those who claim to know best just don’t seem to get it, the enthusiast market is driven like Lemmings. Just look at the Tom-Tom thing, every second car seems to have one, just look around next commute. Ever wonder how many of these people g take the same route to work every day, but still have the thing turned on?
Take a look at the next lifted Jeep you see, what is on the front? Probably it’s a Warn winch. That is not because they are any better than some of the others; they bought one because someone they know has one. Will they ever actually use it? Probably not, but they have one and they get to live vicariously because of it.

The economy sucks, no news there, and contrary to the news cheerleaders it is going to be a long time before things get back to the old normal, if it ever does. Companies have to start to look at; ‘How Do We make This Work’ rather than making excuses.

One last point, I am in Canada, and I can’t count the number of suppliers who tell me they don’t target the Canadian market. Why not, we have an economy, recession didn’t happen here, we have a trade surplus, and housing values are going up.
Small market? Wrong, local cruse night gets 800 to 1000 cars a week, yah right small. Local 4x4 clubs have 15 to 20 trucks going out every weekend, and land use is not as restricted up here. Here is another interesting fact, the Bozo factor is also very small here, you know the fool who goes out and rips up the countryside.
People who go out in their 4x4 actually buy parts; imagine that.

Cruse night vehicles are increasing weekly, because we Canadians have a limited season so we make the best of ever second we have. We may not be as big as the California market, however we are no where near as restricted either, basically if it can be bolted on safely and passes the provincial testing it is legal, no silly tree hugger lobby groups who managed to convince some mindless, cover his ass, politician type rulings.

Sorry about the rant, I just don’t get it???

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Project sponsorship and the corporate jungle

Take a look at just about any automotive magazine, or how-to television show and you will see lots of really nice vehicles, and manufactures tend to throw lots of money or product at these things. Now just for shits-and-giggles, have you ever bought anything just because you saw it on television or in a build story? Didn’t think you have, and from talking to literally hundreds of people I haven’t found even one person who has bought anything they have seem in print or on the screen.
On the same topic, when was the last time you saw something that was actually original?
Not that all the shows are bad, there are a couple who actually try something new, sort of, once in a while. People watching just can’t seem to relate however, these TV shops have every tool imaginable, all the latest ‘stuff’, whereas the homebuilder has to make due with what they have or can borrow. A hand up, who has bought a plasma cutter in the last while because they saw it on TV, better to ask who has the spare cash?
Even if people had the cash to buy something to make their passion easier to follow in their home shop, they buy what they see their contemporise using, if someone you know uses whatever, you can at least ask their impression.
Let’s look at the actual parts of a project, just like the tools, these shows and magazine vehicles always seem to have all the latest and greatest, whereas the enthusiast has to save and make do with what they can afford, that is why some of these home builds take five to ten years.
Enough griping, did anyone know that television networks don’t pay for content from these shows? All those cool tools and parts you see are there because companies have to pay big money to get the parts there, and in some cases supply staff to actually do the work, rather than the talking heads on the screen. The production company then buys time to air the show. It is big business with a large number of people who do nothing but see the idea of getting companies this and that on the screen or in a magazine.
Hope I haven’t spoiled anyone view of a television hero!

So what if you come up with a really unique idea for a project, start to save your pennies, because there is NO HELP out there for you. Doesn’t matter that your project will be seem by hundreds or thousands of people who are into the same thing you are, the real customers, who might actually buy something because they see it being used.
Don’t even think of going after any of the Detroit three, they make it almost impossible for anyone to find the person to talk to, and even if you get lucky enough to find the correct person, you will find they have a manager who is an accountant, not a car person, and that is the end of that, no support is available.

Point in case, and I risk repercussions for even mentioning this, but then again I wouldn’t be a rebel without a clue if I let things alone 8-)

A few years ago at a media breakfast at the SEMA show I spoke to a management type from GM, not yet Government Motors then, but heading that way. I digress.
I explained an idea for a project I had, and I was pleasantly surprised how excited he became. He even told me to get in touch after the show and promised to help out because he thought the idea was very cool and original. What transpired next was very enlightening. We exchanged e-mails for a while, and I thought we had become more or less friends, my mistake. You see I mentioned I thought GM was making a slight mistake with the direction they were heading and might be going in the wrong direction that would lead to very bad endings.
OOPS! I next get an email that more of less told me to piss-off, and when I enquired why the abrupt change in direction I got a call back from GM security telling me not to contact the said manager any more. Nice guys, and guess what? I was correct in my gazing into my crystal ball, General Motors becomes Government Motors, and some times I hate it when I am right.

Ford and Chrysler are not much better as far as trying to get support, but at least they don’t send the security dogs after you. I have found the European and Japanese manufactures are very polite, they listen at least, however they too are stuck in the same rut, the small builder or home builder who will actually be able to show off their products just do not seem to count.

I have come to discover that large companies are a lot like government, totally out of touch with their market, too big and secretive, and too many accountants how are not car people. Anything that is truly different scares them; this is because they think they know better, they have been doing their thing their way for years. Oh wait, didn’t many of these guys end up in Chapter 11 because they were not listening to what people wanted, and spent gross amounts of money on thing like NASCAR sponsorships, and television shows. At one time this actually worked, win on the weekend sell next week was the rule, but then again, the cars looked different then, not now, strip off that wrap and line them up, and try and tell them apart.

Will these big manufactures ever learn? Not until they start to look beyond the next quarter, and start to pay attention to the small players who will do a far better job of supporting the product through their social networks and actually being out there with their creations with people of a like mind.

Have a great weekend, and get out there and play.

Friday, April 2, 2010

California, No Longer Relevant?

California, arguably the birthplace of the car culture, and at one time the place to be if you wanted to produce anything for the aftermarket, or simply live the culture, but that was then, this unfortunatly is now, and things have sadly changed.

California was at one time a major world market, what California wanted, California got. For decades it has dictated to the rest of North America the standards for everything environmental. This has been the legacy handed down to everyone by a bunch of spineless government official who have caved into the numerous fringe tree huggers who have nothing better to do than make the life of the car culture miserable.
These groups gather members who do not fit into society in any other spot, people who essentially don’t have a life. Why else would someone want to support closing hundreds of square miles of land to everything but hikers, how could they ever expect anyone to be able to get to the remote corners, not that that is ever a consideration, they just want to be able to say they a have saved the area from some imagined harm.
This attitude has expanded into every facet of the automotive hobby, short-sighted smog regulations, with really no consideration for the effects of the lobby, beyond another victory for their group. Current diesel inspections for example; any modification to a California vehicle will result in a failed inspection, however, no thought was given to the fact that there is no test to determine that said modification is actually helping the vehicle to burn cleaner, it simply is not allowed. You see the fringe knows better.
Fact is that they have managed to make it unlawful to make any modification to any vehicle beyond how it rolled out of the factory. Before you freak out, check the regulation, the rules are there, simply not enforced.
California enacted a rule requiring all diesel-powered vehicles (highway trucks) to have catalytic converters and catalyst injection systems, retrofitting is far to costly so all the farmers and any other owner for that matter has been forced to purchase new vehicles. This has the effect of driving many out of business, and those who do survive, passing the cost along to consumers, not only food, but everything moved by transport.

Totally ridicules making the continent follow their misguided view of how things should be. Voters rule, and these groups claim millions of members, weather they actually vote is another question, but those who depend on getting re-elected to boost their egos will always bend to this lobby. Any company who wants to sell any vehicles in California has been forced to bend to the imposed regulations, and for a long time it made good financial policy to do that because that is where the market was. I saw ‘was’ because that is no longer a truthful statement is the grand scheme of the marketplace.

Some interesting facts gleaned form various government web sites, and being government they do tend to sugar coat things, and not provide the whole story.
Unemployment in California is reported to be 12.5%, however this number only reflects those receiving benefits, it fails to include those who are no longer eligible, or illegal immigrants, or those who had no work before the current financial issues. A more accurate number would be closer to double that number, 25% is indeed something to think about.
Foreclosures in California is at one in 195 homes for January, and quite frankly I have no idea how many empty houses there are in California, the number is far to big to consider.
Bankrupted company, and personal filings for 2009 where 210,000, that is up 58% from 2008, this would explain some of the foreclosures and unemployment numbers.
Something else to look at is the various Ponzy Schemes that seem to have targeted California residents, taking some 100 Billion out of the national economy, rather redistributed that wealth, sort of. Still a couple of California municipalities which were former enclaves of the rich and famous are now on very hard times indeed; Palm Springs being one of the hardest hit.
Silicone Valley once a powerhouse has been shrinking since the telecom bubble burst, and many of the major players have moved off shore, or only have a presence as a head office, all their production farmed out to someplace else.

What does all this mean? A massive reduction in the state spending power; to the point of no longer having any relevance in the grand scheme of things. Not only is the State in debt to the point of possible never getting out, but the population has taken a massive hit to their discretionary spending with more and more families looking to the essentials before toys.

For those of us in the Car Culture are at a point that we need to unite into a voice as loud as the environmental fringe. The Automotive aftermarket has been quoted to be worth near 100 billion, add to that the repair industry, and the OEM sector and the mind boggles that they even notice California exists any longer. We are at a time when we need to stand up and shout, ‘no more, we are out of here’. Some have actually voted with their corporate feet and left California, but the market leadership is still taking a passive approach. I was recently told that being so big makes the aftermarket to easy a target, if it is so big, and it is, why not use the size to dictate policy, rather than always giving in and behaving like that poor kid sent to the principals office, you know, looking at the floor, shuffling of feet, teary eyed, droopy shoulders, just waiting for a scolding for something rather than standing up for your position.

California is no longer relevant, and probably has not been for some time, so why on earth do we continue to let them dictate the rules of a game they are no longer in?

Do you want change? Make your voice heard, call your favourite manufacturer of aftermarket parts and express your support. Call SEMA and tell them it is past time to stand up and fight back.
It is time to take back our hobby and say no to those who are trying to regulate it out of existence.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What am I doing wrong?

Every year I design a car or truck over the winter months, it is cold up here in Canada, and I have never liked the cold, so hibernating and designing go hand in hand.

A couple of years ago I came up with a design for a long nose, two seat, diesel powered, convertible coupe. A build based on the 3R's of recycling, and using green technologies, I am even going to do the welding off peak hours, and paint it with all water based paint.
This is not just another trailer queen, when done it will be driven to events, in some cases pulling my D90 on it's trailer.
A 'Real Hot Rod' not some pretty thing that never gets used.

As a builder I don't have a TV show, I don't build vehicles for celebrates and professional sport people who have more money than brains. I build and freely share what I am doing with others so they can also build a dream. I write for a couple of magazines, and I attend far more shows that the average person. My passion has almost cost me my marriage because I travel around with my builds.
I can't count the number of times I have watched someone either photographing my truck or shooting a video of it, and that encounter normally leads to talking about what I have done, and in most cases how and why.

The Aftermarket is all about the small builder who does something different that brings attention to the various sponsor's products. People buy what they see others using, not what they see on some build show on television that has every new tool and toy under the sun.

Not like I haven't done this before, I feel safe in saying my Land Rover Defender 90 is one of the most recognizable across North America, at least that is the impression I get from all the feedback.
Land Rover doesn't appreciate it however, not surprising since they have total lost sight of their heritage and seem to only want to sell bling. That however does not explain why the Detroit three can't see beyond their cubicles.
Case in point; I sent a proposal to one of them, outlining the concept for the build of the hot rod, all I wanted was a drive line. Someone in the brain trust sends me back a SEMA Show project vehicle application, including a list of vehicles available. This arrives via e-mail the day before the application was due to be submitted, and requires more information than can be put together in 24 hours. Totally missed the point, I don't want a vehicle to load up with shiny chrome bits, just another chromed everything, that will stand out, sure it will.
Apparently thinking out of the cubicle is not allowed if one works for any of the Detroit three, but we know that, recent history proved that point.

Vehicle planned, marketing planned, build and update schedule planned, all done.
Maybe I should change my name to something more famous and move the a California area code.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Well it has been some time hasn't it?

So SEMA 09, an interesting show this year!
Smaller, yes noticeably so, fewer displays, wider isles, some notable companies missing, however not all is gloomy, and the state of the industry appears to be good.
I spent a lot of time talking to vendors this year, mainly on the last two days.
Every vendor that could be considered Tier One, that being the big names, not the me too vendors, reported an amazing show. Every one of them were quite astounded that they were writing orders, getting new leads, and were in fact almost run of their feet during the first couple of days.
One noticeable example was Mastercraft Seats, recognized as the leader in off-road seating for any vehicle, and the leader in quality. Mastercraft moved from the off-road area to the Hot Rod / street area, with a bigger and more open display area, and it worked, every time I passed it was full.
Several of the other seat manufactures seemed to be lacking traffic of any kind, well one did well but that was all for the former nude model.
Ford dominated the OEM display, huge, bright and always full of people looking at very cool stuff. GM's display, well you could probably hold a rugby match without any fear of running over someone. Chrysler was in it's normal place in back of the tire hall, no idea if anyone found them.
there was lots of very interesting 'new products' on display. Some 'why is this considered new' products as well; yet more exhaust systems. Why is an exhaust system considered a new product totally escapes me.
One quick walk through the off-road area, and it would be quick, because it was hard to make out from the other products added to fill out the area. New products, well a couple, more on that later.
The Green Zone had a surprise in store for anyone who might make the trip and be interested in New and Off-Road. A vehicle called a Rally Fighter, made by Local Motors, very cool indeed. Limited production calls for only 2000 units, but somewhat different. The new owner gets the opportunity to participate in the vehicle build. The Rally Fighter is a space frame design powered by a BMW diesel and it has a truly nasty looking composite body. This car will scare people.

On the dark side, the trade show police were out and patrolling the floor and causing bad feelings all round. Of what do I speak? One manufacture's rep told me of a seas and desist order he received for handing out FREE power drinks, and it came with a threatened, beyond reason fine. Why you ask? Seems the vendors charging outrageous amounts for soda are protected and the people this show is all about cannot give out drinks. The catch, none of the vendors sold any sort of power drink, none, nodda.
At another booth I asked a guy why on earth was he drinking his beer covered by a bag, trade show police again. Seems one cannot bring their own beer, even if it is for lunch, and it seems he didn't care for the type of beer for sale and being a different brand didn't want to risk the wrath of the trade show police.
Funny thing, people wonder why manufactures don't come back the following year?
Another interesting point, when moving in, if it is done on a Saturday, moving booth containers is at time and a half, seven forbid something has to be moved on a Sunday, that is double time. Booth rental is the least cost people displaying have to worry about. No wonder the show is shrinking each year.
Another bad thing I was party to hearing, OK eves dropping again. On the Wednesday morning on the train ride to the show I heard two guys discussing the decision of the Tire Association to not attend the show in '10 and to only attend the regional shows. Seems they made better use of their time and garnered better results if the buyers didn't have to travel so far. This was the second morning of the show and a major group had already planned on not coming back. Scary thought for SEMA. Several of the big players in the tire business didn't attend this years show in any case.
The AAPEX show, that is the repair part show, didn't make out much better this year. Same story really, fewer displaying, but the major brand people all reported doing very brisk business.
Seems that those at both shows who make a quality product and had very few returns did a very good bit of business, those who had quality issues, not so much.
this is good news for the consumer, the choice may be smaller at your favorite shop, but the quality will be higher if the show was any indication.