Industry ready to celebrate a positive year in Orlando

It’s always a sign of an upward trajectory in the industry when the phone rings, and on two consecutive calls, analysts from two different investment companies are on the other line, seeking insight into customization, or pricing of side-by-sides.

That’s a strong sign that somewhere, some as-yet-unnamed company is either looking to enter our industry, or expand its presence in powersports. AIMExpo will be a celebration of that upward trend, as the economy continues its oh-so-slow march to better days ahead, and your customers find that the time is now to hit the trails, the snow, the water or the open road.

If you’re a personal watercraft dealer, you’ve probably seen an increase in sales somewhere in the 20-30 percent range year-over-year through the end of the summer. Now that’s an expanded presence to your bottom line.

I can say for certain that Yamaha Watercraft dealers were overjoyed at viewing the most robust WaveRunner lineup ever revealed. The 2015 model launch at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami in August was over the top in a lot of ways — put a stay at the Fontainebleau in South Beach on your bucket list — but none more so than the product lineup itself. (OK, that WaveRunner house band that played under a mostly banner night outdid itself, and the demo rides on the Intercoastal held rank also, as did that wicked bakery near the hotel lobby.)

Dealers had become so accustomed to “Bold New Colors and Graphics” that I must have heard a dozen dealers tell me how pleased they were that the 2015 launch offered so much more. I had the task of hopping aboard the full 2015 WaveRunner lineup at the Ritz-Carlton in Lake Oconee, Ga., (that ain’t a bad bucket list spot, either!) and found Yamaha’s new RiDE dual handlebar throttle controls to be a supreme way to maneuver around tight quarters. I mean, even I can handle right throttle for forward, left throttle for reverse. Dealers in the hotel ballroom were equally excited to see for themselves the following day on the Intercoastal.

And I really appreciated how the forward-thinking Yamaha crew out of Kennesaw, Ga., refused to rest on its laurels with the VX series. The industry’s best-selling PWC series for nine years in a row got a complete overhaul, including a new hull and deck. With RiDE as part of the package, dealers were ready to sell right there on the carpeted hotel floor.

We met with plenty of dealers and Yamaha execs during our memorable visit to South Beach, and will share more about them in upcoming editions.

But for now, it’s time to return to Florida and embark on the 2nd annual AIMExpo. I thought it would be worthwhile to check in with Mike Webster and Larry Little from AIMExpo to get the last-minute scoop. We’ll be around for the Wednesday, Oct. 15 PSB Institute @ AIMExpo Kickoff Networking Reception sponsored by GE Capital at the Rosen Centre Hotel pool balcony, and of course for Thursday and Friday during the dealer training sessions at the PSB Institute. National Powersport Auctions recently stepped up to sponsor the Power 50 Awards Dinner on Thursday night, and we look forward to welcoming the Power 50 dealers to Orlando that night while sharing the top traits of the Power 50 dealers.


Be sure to check out the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo while you’re in Orlando. Held in the meeting rooms across the hall from the entrance of the AIMExpo exhibit hall, we’ll be offering the dealer training sessions Thursday and Friday, Oct. 16-17. CDK Global Recreation and STA-BIL are premier sponsors of the PSB Institute, with Dominion Powersports Solutions (Digital Solutions Track) and McGraw Powersports Group (Powering Profits Track) as track sponsors.

And while the sessions are geared toward dealers, we don’t turn anyone away. Actually it’s always great to see members of the OEM, business product and aftermarket communities sit in on the sessions to get more familiar with the challenges that dealers face. After all, we don’t have all the answers, but if we get enough people talking about the questions, the answers are likely to follow.


Simply put, you’ll be surprised by AIMExpo’s growth in Year 2. The exhibitor list is nearly 500, up from 392 a year ago. Those exhibitors have helped the show floorplan space grow by more than 40 percent.

“That makes us the largest powersports show in North America, by far and away,” Little said. “And just as important, dealer preregistrations are running about three times what they were at this stage last year. Online ticket sales for consumers are about double what it was this time last year. We’re looking forward to a real good turnout.”

Webster says the mix of trade, education, media and consumers is proving to be an ideal format.

“They’re figuring out the platform makes sense,” he said. “Last year, a lot of people said ‘Wait, we’ve never done that before. Let’s take a step back and see what happens.’”

“We had a lot of good evangelists who were at the show last year, and it’s clear that is the new way to do business. In a lot of respects it was easy for people to make the decision to come, and they budgeted for it this year,” Little added.

If you’re not worn out by the time you leave AIMExpo, you weren’t trying. In addition to the aforementioned PSB Institute @ AIMExpo happening the night before the show even opens, Kawasaki has also chosen Wednesday, Oct. 15, for a worldwide reveal to dealers at the Orange County Convention Center. Yamaha follows suit with a worldwide reveal on Thursday morning to set the stage for the AIMExpo opening. The PSB crew takes over Thursday night for the invite-only Power 50 Awards Dinner.

At AIMExpo Outdoors!, you’ll be able to demo ride units from Yamaha, Suzuki, EBR, Harley-Davidson, Massimo and KYMCO. The AMA is hosting its first modern-era convention for its members, along with the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. The Motorcycle Industry Council will offer numerous opportunities for vendors and dealers alike to join their ranks.

“As we said from the outset, we want to add value to the industry,” Little said. “I think we’re delivering.”

Webster, as the head honcho overseeing AIMExpo at Marketplace Events, believes the show is setting itself apart through an old standby — customer service.

“We’re all in this together. The value of good, quality customer service is always at the forefront with us,” Webster said.

Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or

One comment

  1. If you want to be treated like a VIP go the AIMExpo. Larry and Mike just stepped up their game. Lee Rocker show was incredible. Thank you for a great time.

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