Thoughts from MPMC Speed Dating

Jan 27, 2012

I just returned from the industry’s answer to a three-day speed dating session. And, as always, the thoughts come as quickly as the meetings.

The Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council is a SEMA group dedicated, not surprisingly, to the racing and motorsports market. Its annual media trade conference is held in late January at the Embassy Suites across the street from LAX.

About 100 manufacturers prop their room doors open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. A green page directs us media types shuffling from one meeting to another-14 in all each day, not counting formal and informal get-togethers in the elevator, during 2 quick breaks, or while waiting for a burger from In-N-Out-that officially or unofficially end with the peals of a golden bell rung from SEMA’s own hotel crier.

Room-after-yellow-wallpapered-room is filled with beautiful aftermarket goodies that look more like works of art than pieces to help break the speed limit, and kind company representatives offer heartfelt greetings, more information on their products than one could ever digest in 30 minutes, the occasional AV presentation and sometimes a bottled water, soda, sticker or pen (or even all four!)

Much more so than a typical encounter at a traditional trade show, MPMC allows us to understand more about the companies that make up this great market, and the incredible engineering that goes into their latest equipment. It’s also a chance to ask about market trends and how shops like yours can capitalize on the yearly anticipation that builds momentum toward another warm-weather selling season.

Of course, perspective depends on where you’re standing, but here are a few thoughts that may or may not help with your yearly planning. Meanwhile, I’m ready for a 12-hour nap, dreaming of trolley cars, maroon couches and rolling bags filled with catalogs and key chains.

Package Makes Perfect. I’ve used that headline before, but I’ve always liked it, and after this week, it certain rings true (bells again!). Time and again, manufacturers explained how they are creating systems to encompass the entire scope of their products-whether it’s a turbo company bringing bracket manufacturing in house, or a transmission company partnering with engine builders to offer packages with complementary pieces. It seemed to me that suppliers are tired of having the reputation of their products compromised because someone else’s part doesn’t match up or work right.

Pro (or Con) Touring. A hot topic at many meetings was the Pro Touring (aka resto-mod) market. Some think it’s great. Others are already tired of hearing about it. Some are dedicating new lines to this effort of bringing 2012 technology to favorite muscle cars of the past. Others call it a fad that won’t last. A few were hearing about it for the first time. All I know is that a bunch of people were reading the Pro Touring article from our January issue to find out more, and we wish we’d have brought more copies to hand out.

ByeBye.com. The awesome members of the motorsports media-from consumer magazines to online video sites to television shows to us in the business-to-business arena-were working hard to gather relevant information for our various reader/viewer groups. When asked who was missing, the suppliers said it was many of the former dot-com website-only journalists that had swelled the media member ranks in years past. My thought is to credit that to consolidation, the exhausting ongoing battle for ad dollars, a rise in the quality and commitment to online sites of more established traditional media outlets, and possibly more organizations simply doing more with less. Certainly no one felt it was from a lack of enthusiast support for the parts these guys are selling, or a trend away from racing or motorsports in general.

I guess we’ll learn more next year when the bell rings again.