Well, it is time again for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five days of selling, meetings, dinners and other activities to lure more customers — both domestic and international — to purchase our products. I will return to this subject later.
I am forwarding my message from Asuncion, Paraguay. What am I doing in South America? Calling on international customers, most of them in the automotive aftermarket business. It is extremely interesting to me that down here the feeling is that products manufactured or produced in the United States are high quality. Their perception of products from Taiwan, Korean, and China is not very good. South American customers truly appreciate quality and are happy to pay the price for goods that have American quality. American names that I have seen include Clevite engine parts, Baldwin filters, General Tire, AC/Delco, and Wynns — from Azusa, California.
Business dinners here in South America begin very late, usually around 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. After dinner, the restaurants stop serving food and the party begins. Musicians show up and the restaurant turns into a festive group of people enjoying life. My translation of the Latin attitude is: live for today.
The business dinners last until midnight. This is inconsistent with my "no later than 10:00 p.m." bedtime in the U.S. but, somehow, Im managing.
Now, back to Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas. This is my 20th year as an exhibitor (I was on the SEMA side before the shows combined). And have things ever changed.
I can remember business suites with all kinds of activities after show hours. You worked hard all day and partied all night long. Looking back, I dont know how we did it. Now activities at Las Vegas, for me, often end at 10:00 p.m. I believe that most of us that have been around for a while have calmed down and are more mellow in Las Vegas.
There is also that fact that expenses at the show for entertainment of customers are extremely high. For example, tickets for me to see Kenny Rogers at the Golden Nugget cost me about $250 for 10 people in 1971. Try to do that today. Taking 10 customers to almost anything in Las Vegas will lighten your wallet dramatically.
Instead of buying dinners, shows, and other entertainment, if I had my choice of a way to spend money, buying old automobiles in Chile looks like the way to go. There are hundreds of old cars, mostly Chevrolets and Fords, down here at prices that would shock Hemmings Motor News. Some examples: a 1953 Chevrolet two-door coupe, complete, for $1,000 or a 1929 Ford Model A truck for $850, complete. 1955 to 1957 Chevrolets are often seen on the road. Most of the cars should be very easy restorations. The cars were shipped down here and could easily be shipped back.
Back on the road to Las Vegas for SEMA and Industry Week. As usual, I look forward to this trade show for seeing customers and seeing old friends. It is normal to inquire about people who have been in the industry and what they are doing now. Many times meetings spent with associates turn onto gossip sessions about things that have little effect on our business, but they are a lot of fun.
This year, I am adopting some of what I have learned in my business travels to Latin America. My efforts in entertainment will be more customer-focused. I suggest to all vendors that a social business dinner with your customers may yield fantastic results. Not only may you get more business, you may have results that you werent expecting. For instance, you may think youre just going to dinner and you may end up with a hot connection for a 1953 Chevrolet.
Do not despair at my comments, gentle reader. The Palomino Club in North Las Vegas has convenient hours that will meet your busy schedules for those of you who would like to indulge in the more traditional Las Vegas hospitality.
And, until I see you at the show, Ill be checking out the cars in Central and South America. Maybe tomorrow a 57 Chevrolet Nomad will pass my way.
See you in Vegas.
Originally published in the November 2000
Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright November 2000 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.