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UPDATE: CITExpo Becoming Increasingly International

(Clacton, U.K./Tyres & Accessories) The increasing product quality and the level of distribution of Chinese tyres in the U.K. and Europe clearly demonstrates how the Far Eastern manufacturers are closing the gap between itself and the European/U.S. markets.

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Another important indicator is the existence of a renowned tyre exhibition, a title which by all accounts has already been given to China International Tire Expo or CITExpo in the eyes of visitors. This show has developed strongly in the four years since it was first held in Shanghai. Today CITExpo could be considered as one of the leading tyre exhibitions in China and even in Asia.

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This year the show again set new standards although CITExpo still is far away from an international reputation held by the Reifen show in Germany or the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. However, the CITExpo clearly is on-track towards becoming a fixed entry on the international tyre agenda. The organisers have once again proved themselves capable of offering the right show to the ever-increasing number of exhibitors and visitors.

You only have to look at the statistic generated by this year’s CITExpo which took place in Shanghai from Sept. 6-8. Compared to last year, this year’s show again attracted by far more visitors. Last year, 5,800 visitors registered with the organisers; this year, the number grew by 17% up to 6,800 visitors. At the same time, the three-day CITExpo event attracted more international visitors. In 2005, about 35% of registered visitors came from abroad, this year it hit 41%.

The organisers counted 97 countries of origin among registered visitors. Thus CITExpo is not only attracting more and more visitors every and growing its international reputation, but it also attracting more and more exhibitors.

The outstanding attendance figures on the visitor side was not completely unexpected, says Wilko Fong, managing director of Reliable International Exhibitions Services, the company behind CITExpo. The number of pre-registered visitors were up 60% this year, he points out. This can be understood as another indicator of the international relevance of the Shanghai tyre show because visitors that know months in advance that they want to travel to China for the CITExpo obviously value the show more highly than visitors that decide today to go at the last minute.

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Furthermore, the quality of this year’s CITExpo visitors has increased, Fong asserts in an interview with Tyres & Accessories, itself a CITExpo international media partner. More and more visitors are coming from Western countries, according to the organiser’s statistics.

The quality of visitors is also reflected in the quality of how companies presented themselves at this year’s show. As Mr Fong says, exhibitors are presenting themselves in an increasingly professional way. And this allows a comparison with shows like Reifen and SEMA.

In past years, catering for visitors was literally non-existent, the ubiquitous paper cup of water aside. This year more and more companies welcomed visitors and customers with at least some sweets or served coffee and cookies during tyre talks. Of course these are just minor things in relation to the products on display, however they are equally important for visitors to get an overall impression of any exhibition. Soft factors count for much.

At the same time many exhibitors also changed their show strategy. When in the past most companies where satisfied with a little cubicle somewhere in the exhibition hall allowing them to put up two chairs and a table – this has now changed. More companies – in particular the regulars – are tending to book larger amounts of floor space. And the number of small cubicle stands also seems to be increasing.

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Yet another factor that helps the show to become even more international is the fact that most companies now have staff that speak English, says the managing director. Very rarely were there companies that weren’t prepared for an international audience although it was definitely still more difficult than getting along in Europe with the use of the English language. Either way this shows that English is now the lingua franca in the Chinese tyre business.

The observations stated above are certainly very close to reality. However, they have to be qualified by some other factors – the quality of visitors. How do you actually judge whether the quality of an exhibition visitor is good or bad? Are these visitors who show up and act as the big spenders, filing plenty of orders with Chinese manufacturers and distributors? Are these visitors who work for important and reputable tyre companies from around the globe? Or are these even visitors who are based in highly developed markets?
 
Questions like these are difficult to answer; that’s for sure. The impression that observers got during the CITExpo (and which cannot be independently verified) give us a different perspective on the story. According to these impressions there were much more staff from large international tyre wholesalers in previous years. Some of these companies even exhibited at CITExpo.

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Now they just don’t have to be there as often anymore because their relations with Chinese suppliers are strong. Who do you meet at exhibitions if you know your suppliers already well? It’s new suppliers.

There are almost no wholesalers in Europe which that don’t stock a private or exclusive brand from China. Although the relations on the international tyre markets – in particular between China and the rest of the world – will grow in volume, this viewpoint is verified by many sources. The number of possible relations between various companies is surely limited. And it appears that these relations have now reached these limits – (almost) all relations have been built.

At the same time, there was a trend on OTR tyres at this year’s CITExpo that can be used to contradict the above theory. In the past exhibitors attending the Shanghai show mostly featured their truck and passenger car tyre program as well as plenty of accessories. This year big was beautiful.

It was more than evident that Chinese tyre manufacturers have realised the potential profit margins that can be achieved with the production and distribution of OTR tyres in current market conditions. At least 10% of exhibitors had OTR tyres featured on their CITExpo stand and among them were plenty of newcomers. And while many manufacturers are not yet capable of producing radial OTR tyres at this point, their bias product ranges are wider than you might think. Most of these manufacturers pointed out that they were just about to break through into the OTR radial technology.

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Another CITExpo characteristic, something that is both positive and negative, is the distinct lack of tyre majors. Without these, a show like CITExpo is prevented from operating at the same level as Essen or Las Vegas.

Not only that from the “Group of 10” no one was supporting the show with a booth. This obviously is a fate that the CITExpo shares with many other shows in remote regions of the globe. But even renowned Chinese manufacturers like Giti Tire, Chengshan, Triangle, Shengshan, etc., continue to miss the show although some were there in the past.

What about the manufacturers from Korea, Japan or Taiwan of which many have production facilities in China? Again they were nowhere to be seen. However, the tyre brands that are manufactured by these companies are often present during the CITExpo being featured by tyre agents or wholesalers.

At the same time it needn’t be a disadvantage to the show when all the major domestic and international tyre manufacturers are missing because – in these circumstances – the show remains what it was in the past and what visitors and exhibitors expect it to be. CITExpo is like a mixture of an oriental bazaar (in the positive sense of the word) and a vast tyre trading place. People who sell and buy meet in Shanghai – people who build tyres don’t even need to be there.

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Although this year’s CITExpo closed its doors in mid-September, organisers from Reliable International are already looking to the future. They have already started to organise the fifth tyre show in Shanghai and, according to Wilko Fong, it is most likely that the 2007 show will be even more successful than its predecessors. Already more than 60% of this year’s floor space has been booked out for the 2007 event. “This is highly promising for us,” Fong says. When comparing the current pre-booking for the up-coming event with figures from last year it wasn’t a question of whether or not the CITExpo 2007 would be bigger but how much the show would grow.

The organisers plan is to run the next tyre show in concurrence with the Auto Testing Expo (China) exhibition which took place on the second floor of the CITExpo venue. Fong even reckons that three floors will be needed for the 2007 show.

The fifth China International Tire Expo will take place between Sept. 12-14, 2007, in the Shanghai Everbright Exhibition and Convention Center once again. 

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