It’s goodbye from them and goodbye from us

Sometimes tyre people are creatures of habit. They like what they know and they know what they like. So when change comes it can feel disorientating. But change is also the engine of progress. And standing still is virtually synonymous with going backwards.

As I write, I am standing in hall three of the last Essen show. Some 56 years after the first edition of what went on to become a world-leading tyre exhibition, we are waving goodbye to the Reifen Show as we know it. Whatever happens in the tyre show arms race between the original Reifen show’s organisers Messe Essen and its competitor The Tire (organised by Koeln Messe), what we are left with simply won’t be the same as we have now. Firstly, we will all be attending a different venue in 2018 – whether it’s Cologne in the middle of the year or in Frankfurt (where Reifen will run alongside the already well-established Automechanika). This means many have bid a fond farewell to Essen, its hotels and venues and all its idiosyncrasies not to mention the memories attached to all of this.

Then there’s the look and feel. With a show as big as Reifen Essen being the subject of a duel between two exhibition organisers, and with the associated changes being so great, it is unlikely that either of 2018’s shows will operate at the same scale as what we see right now. This is particularly true with reference to the viewpoint from which I am writing – hall three. Reifen Essen 2016’s hall three is packed with large and very professional stands from the biggest firms in the world and the most ambitious developing brands. It is difficult to imagine such an experience at either show in two years’ time. There are many reasons for this, but the simple fact that exhibitors have to either choose between the shows or split their budget between two exhibitions means concerns that the sum of the two shows’ parts could well end up being less than what we have (or, by the time you read this, had) in Essen are warranted.

And then there are the repercussions. The term “positive disruption” has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly as non-traditional business models such as those deployed by Uber and AirBnB throw a curve ball at our economic preconceptions. But the truth is that not all disruption is positive. Some is negative and some is neutral. It is too early to say which kind of disruption the show situation will create, but it is unlikely to be particularly negative in a market-wide sense or in terms or measurable sales. Rather it affects the way we interact with each other, it affects the “soft” intangibles of the tyre business. And being intangible, it is hard to get hold of how this will pan out in future.

Strategic changes are however much more visible. And the clearest of these is Messe Essen’s steps towards Automechanika in Germany, but also in the UK where we will see the development of a tyre show alongside the second Automechanika Birmingham in 2017. The question is: where else will the percussions of this duel be seen? The obvious answer is China where Automechanika Shanghai has become a very significant sized show for the parts side of the business, but where Reifen China has been battling against the adverse winds of oversupply and very low pricing and therefore slim to non-existent margins in the tyre market. For these reasons, a future Automechanika Shanghai-Reifen China partnership makes arguably even more sense than the European arrangements we have seen.

Hello and goodbye

On the subject of goodbyes, our wider publishing group’s visit to the last Reifen Show in Essen is tinged with melancholy for other reasons. Namely because one of our sister publication Neue ReifenZeitung’s most experienced editors, Detlef Vogt is retiring a little more than 30 years after he joined Europe’s leading German-language tyre magazine.

Not only has he played a key role in the development of Neue ReifenZeitung during the last three decades, but he has also become Tyres & Accessories’ in-house wheel expert. Such is his wide-ranging knowledge in this area it might be said that what he doesn’t know about wheel companies isn’t worth knowing. So, for this and his support over the years, on behalf of everyone at T&A we wish him a smooth and successful transition into semi-retirement.

Of course, the end of one chapter simply precedes the beginning of another. This is also true in Germany where we welcome Christine Schönfeld to NRZ and the wider group’s editorial team. While she may be a newcomer when it comes to tyres, she brings valuable experience as an online editor at German TV channel ZDF and at national newspaper West Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Tyres & Accessories’ position as the oldest established English-language tyre magazine remains the same. And this month sees us pass another milestone. Having first been published in June 1946, this year sees T&A mark its 70th anniversary. So as you read about the latest UHP tyre technology and raw materials and manufacturing know-how elsewhere this year, remember what our celebratory advertising says, from 1946 to today, we have it covered!

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