LeMans Corp. kicked off its 2017 season in grand style once again in Madison, Wisconsin, at its annual National Vendor Presentation Product Expo. And after showcasing the largest collection of vendors ever at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in late August, Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties dealer partners learned they are in for an even better treat in the coming year.
First, there’s the return to Indy. That’s right, Parts and Drag dealers will converge on the industry’s favorite gathering spot — Indianapolis — on Feb. 18-19, inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The centrally located Indy show replaces its successful two regionals held in recent years, including Atlanta and Philadelphia last year.
“Everybody’s pumped about going back to Indy,” Jeff Derge, VP of sales for Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties, told Powersports Business. “Everybody loves that city. It’s a great place for a show, and that’s why we’re going to do one there. We’re jumping in a little early at Indy, and we’re going to get dealers filled up when they’re ready to go.”
Year 1 in Indy figures to include a vendor number similar in size to the Madison NVP. LeMans Corp. will continue its traditional August NVP in Madison.
“We’re really happy and excited about where we’re headed and how we’re doing our shows. We make them better every year,” Derge added. “I can’t tell you how happy LeMans is with the whole team. Our event team is without question the best in the industry.”
And that crew will be relied on even more in 2017, as Derge and Jim Matchette, Drag Specialties national sales manager, told PSB that dealers across the country will experience a new level of care next year.
“We’re going to be taking the product training to the dealers next year. We’re going to every part of the country so that dealers can have easy access to training on all the top brands in the industry,” Derge said.
A Drag Specialties tour and multiple Parts Unlimited tours will begin following the Indy NVP.
“Instead of having them jumping through hoops and going to certain events, we’re taking the training to the dealers this time,” Matchette said. “It’ll be all summer long. The Drag Specialties tour will be more than 24 stops, and the Parts tour will be more than 30 stops. And we’ll have a separate helmet and apparel tour that will be about 36 stops.”
“We want to make it as cost-effective as possible for dealers to be able to get their staff trained on product,” Derge said. “And you’re right, when I made the announcement in front of the vendors, I had a hard time getting out of that room. They all wanted to be on the tour.”
Most tour venues will be at locations (not dealerships) that can host approximately 75 attendees.
“We’re going to continue to push and stay the course of what we believe in — and that’s all of our dealers,” Derge said.
“And we take care of them with the No. 1 sales team in the industry, and, as far as I’m concerned, all industries,” he added. “It’s also the most educated and the most dedicated rep force in the industry.”
Playing to a packed house
The 2016 NVP got off to a rollicking start, with vendors presenting their 2017 product lineup to Parts and Drag reps for two days. By night, reps, vendors and LeMans employees took to the stage at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Madison for the third annual NVP/Michelin Power Jam. A wide range of talent graced the stage, with budding and seasoned musicians alike putting on a rock show for the ages.
Vendors got to meet newly-appointed Parts Unlimited national sales managers Mike Faulkner and Steve Weir in a setting that builds camaraderie.
The two-day dealer event started on Saturday morning, when several brands offered product training seminars.
The second annual rooftop bike show featured 40 bikes of various makes and models and added interest to the Meet and Greet buffet dinner.
“We’re not trying to pick out one thing about our customer base or our dealer base. We’re doing everything we can to help all the dealers all the time,” Derge said. “We also want to share the enthusiasm about what’s important in this sport. There’s a lot of time that people forget why we got into this industry. We try to get back to what this industry’s all about.”
Dealer attendees selected one People’s Choice bike for both Drag Specialties and Parts Unlimited. All bikes were owned by reps, vendors, or LeMans employees.
“There were all kinds of bikes there, and it really showed why we’re all in the motorcycle business,” Matchette said. “These weren’t builders with a bunch of crazy 30-inch, big-wheel baggers. We had Honda CB1100Fs, Honda and Suzuki trials bikes; Larry Tiede from Woody’s had an Arctic Cat drag racing sled with a parachute on it. Everybody stands around talking and looking, and it builds relationships.”
In fact, folks lingered around for so long that the expected 8 p.m. ending time instead turned into 9:30 under a beautiful nighttime sky.
Dealers had piles of product to peruse on the show floor both Saturday and Sunday. Moose Racing is celebrating its 30th anniversary and featured a custom bike on display, with 32 new part numbers on it.
Jason Spillers’ Coastal Moto launched the first aftermarket Harley-Davidson cast wheels. The Largo 3D brings an $899.95 MSRP and features three-dimensional design elements that had not been possible with standard CNC-machined forgings. Drag Specialties has exclusive distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
“Those are going to be a big deal; let’s put that way,” Matchette said. “Everybody’s fired up about those. And our new Drag Specialties shocks were an absolute home run.”
A completely new Thor lineup, new voltage regulators from Drag, along with the ICON Brozak helmet, also had dealers lined up for viewing. Dealers came to Madison from places like Texas, California and Washington.
“It was absolutely our highest attended show ever, with well over 200 vendors,” Derge said. “As far as participation from dealers, it was the best we’ve ever had. The new format is drawing dealers from a much larger area. Now that we’ve added product training, dealers are seeing out commitment to us helping them in their business.”