The day dawned gray and with light snow and a wind chill of eight degrees. Still, the determined dealers, vendors and assorted families, friends and staff trudged into the Indiana Convention Center for day two of Dealer Expo. In agreement with the weather, there was a foreboding sense of something in the air. The previous day, Advanstar, the company behind both Dealer Expo and the Progressive International Motorcycle Show, announced that they would be moving Dealer Expo to September in 2014. Exhibitors that I talked to expressed reservations about the date, with some commenting that not only were some areas of the country still selling their powersports equipment at that time of the year, but also citing typical fall activities like football, baseball and hunting seasons potentially getting in the way of their attendance at the show. We will see what happens, but whatever it is, it was on everybody's minds during day two of the show.
One of the first stops that I made was at the Bell Helmets booth, where their new helmet, the Rogue, was attracting a fair bit of attention. The Rogue is best described as an "open faced" helmet, somewhere between a half and a 3/4 helmet, but with a bonus chin and nose covering called a "muzzle". The lower face protector is removable, adjustable and features a malleable cloth insert for use in colder weather. it's held on magnetically, and will pop on and off in a second. It's held in place with a simple, but solid ratcheting system to provide ease of adjustment but solid enough to leave in the perfect position so that the muzzle magnetic catches hold everything together for a custom fit. The Rogue also features a lightweight composite shell (available in three sizes for a perfect fit, a removable and washable interior with stainless D-rings and metal badges. It's available in matte black, solid army green and solid gunny. This combined with a five-year warranty may prove irresistible for scooterists and cyclists everywhere. They also showed off some stunning other helmets, including the custom-look 3/4.Custom 500 and the half-helmet with a twist, the "Pit Boss." The Pit Boss features a "speed dial" custom fit, and all these helmets have the typical Bell quality. As Business Development Manager Jon Eide says, every bike shop needs at least the "Rogue, Pit Boss and Custom 500".
I stopped by the Corazzo booth for a chat with Allan Drysdale, the co-owner of the brand. He showed me a sharp new women's jacket, the ladies Adventure Jacket, perhaps to be called the "Adventura" once the final touches are added. It features what looks like a substantial full-sleeve liner that can be worn on it's own. It looks like a great jacket and when it comes around, I bet that it will be a good seller. He also showed me a fantastically trim summer-wear ladies' jacket called the "Brezza". It features a highly abrasive-resistant cordura nylon in a unique open weave that looks stunning. It has the usual, useful details that Corazzo typically offers - reflective trim and the famous shield insignia. There may be men's versions of these jackets to come, as well as a tastefully updated 5.0 (to 6.0, naturally), in the near future.
Puma Cycles Corporation's booth was the next stop and I spoke with both Lawrence Luo, president and CEO and Joe Stutz, Sales Representative for the East Coast. They showed off their new products and Joe pulled me aside to fill me in on their progress with both customers and dealers. But first, they showed off the Valentine. The Valentine is a retro, mid-1950's Vespa homage, available with either a 50 or 150cc engine. It's twist and go this time, and although some of the details may be a bit overdone, the Valentine represents an incredible value for $2100 for the 150cc version. It's finish is in a high quality plastic, with a surprisingly good finish on the metallic green version that was on display. I noted that the seat was firm and comfortable and that the two racks are standard, as is a side and center stand. This one probably isn't for the vintage scooterist, but it may just lead a new scooterist on to the stronger stuff. They also showed new 50cc/150cc models called the "Speedo" and the "Jakester" that are more traditional Asian scooters, but built with some attention to detail and a good mix of larger wheels, LED accents and turn-signal lights and a combination of hydraulic disks up front and manual drum brakes in the rear.
After the tour, Joe Stutz pulled me aside and told me that Puma is doing some proactive changes to the way that they take care of their dealers and customers. They are instituting a Puma credit card that will allow a customer to purchase a scooter and take delivery plus come back and put maintenance charges on the card as well. He also told me of an optional four-year warranty that dealers will be offering to buyers to supplant the existing one-year warranty currently offered. He said that Puma is now going after "A dealers" and "selling up against anything that the market offers." They have an aggressive dealer acquisition program, and he promises that "good things are to come from Puma."
What's next: Dealer Expo 2013 day three