Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dealer Expo copycats never win. Watching a knockoff get served at the show.

So this year I had the experience of witnessing firsthand something pretty common by US companies as they develop brands that might be successful. I saw a brand with huge demand, and directly across the isle the COPYCAT.

Yes, it happens.

I know because imitation is the best form of flattery. In this business the moment I pickup a new supplier or a new brand I have dealers and competitors write emails to the factories saying “hey I can buy more than he can, or we can do this,” it’s amazing. If it’s a loyal friend or a company they forward it to me. If they’re not I’ve come to the conclusion it’s better to work with people that don’t tend to screw you. It’s amazing how many dealers, distributors, and people you meet in this business that try to do this. I’ve actually purchased people in bankruptcy opened up their notes, filling cabinets, and found the emails, details, about copying what The Maven does. You see someone with ambition and you try to take from him what he's doing. So this ridiculous story should come as no surprise to anyone on the distribution side.

Now let's get something straight I will work as an expert witness or industry expert when needed for a case, consulting issue, I've been on all sides of this game. I worked at a dealer, an importer, distributor (attorneys always call asking for an expert.) As time goes on I've been on dealer vs. distributor cases, distributors vs. dealer cases, but I've never seen the start of something that was this straight up wrong. A company with the "cojones" to tell and email dealers that they have something that looks the same, but clearly isn’t. What I've come to realize in this industry is that most Chinese companies are not accountable. They think there are no repercussions. Dealer News had to put on a big meeting this past weekend to explain to them that there are consequences because many of them continue to get sued for copyright infringement, wrongful death, and false advertising. It goes on and on. Click here for Dealer News story:

Trade publications, trade shows, and industry councils are powerless. By the time DOT investigates a company they probably have no assets so the investigation goes nowhere. They just close.

Same happens when someone sues them. These companies just close. Hopefully these guys get the message, because what they are selling isn’t just a copycat, I thought it looked dangerous. Bad wielding, an importer reputation for selling crap, and the audacity to display across from the people they are copying.

So this weekend, I finally meet the designer Scotty from CCW. He’s done a great job, top of the line bikes. He’s got some big plans for the US. If you watch the video below the PIT Motors / CCW booth was packed, so packed people said I have no idea where you guys are. They couldn’t find the booth because we always had crowds.

I love people with aspiration. If you are going to dream go ahead and dream big. Why settle in life? Why say I want to be like everyone else. Again, someone with an idea will get imitated. So on one side I have to say “hey you did an awesome job, better than anyone else so far.” On the other hand it’s an uphill battle since you will have to be ever vigilant and enforce your designs.

The Heist is in my office and everyone wants to ride that thing. I’m taking it to Hooters next week and I guarantee at least 30 people will come and talk about it. It was a hit at SEMA this year and they asked us to bring more so other exhibitors could customize them. So after all this success it’s sad to see this happen. I mean it upset at me to end.

CCW is headed by a young 30 year old designer who dreams big. He's designed lots of products for several industries and has been exhibiting at the show for a few years. I was more than impressed with his concepts and he knows the manufacturing process extremely well. I've been trying to get something going with his distributor, when all of a sudden we see a complete knock off exhibiting two booths down. I had the fortune to witness them served with papers. They managed to upset quite a few people and in typical Chinese copycat fashion they acted like they had no idea and left the booth. The American employees didn’t know what to do. The knockoff had a similar frame but everything else on it was done on the cheap. As a matter of fact the frame looked pretty unsafe. I opened my CCW bike for the first time last week so I can say I am not a dealer nor a retailer for them just a fan. Right out of the box it looked awesome.

These Suncrap bikes looked like they were made at a junk yard factory, but that's besides the point. I mean I don’t know what these people were thinking they must have been fed antifreeze in their baby milk or something because it was just downright pathetic. The point is the show let's people exhibit any junk they want. This is part of the downward spiral the industry is on. You build a China pavilion bigger than anything at the show, you fill it with companies trying to sell dealer direct and consumer direct and you wonder why exhibitors don't want to display. You wonder why American companies get smaller every year and why nobody of any quality wants to exhibit.

Not to mention I saw Polaris walking around ready to drop the hammer on RZR knockoffs right next to us. The list goes on and on of what we saw this year. China and Taiwan have taken over almost the entire exhibit area. Exactly the reason why companies like Kymco don’t exhibit anymore. They don’t want to deal with the tire kickers comparing a Kymco 500cc to the latest Chinese 400cc scooter.

The scooter session was the reason I went this year because there is little return on the show. Consumers sneak in. You have people without actual retail locations coming up to you saying “ I repair bikes at home I want to drop ship, can you help me?” If I was as greedy as some of these guys I would say yes, but instead I point them down to the competition who has no qualms about it.

It was pretty sad to see dealers walk around looking at the Suncrap booth at a model which was clearly a rip-off of something CCW has worked so hard on. They don’t even look the same so it upset me even more when some ignorant store owner would come and mention it. It was comparing Apples and Turds. Look sir I drive a Porche you cannot come into my office and tell me your beat up Kia is in the same league. It’s not an elitist thing it’s just a fact. There is a right and a wrong in the universe and it’s not that hard to see sometimes. This company was sending dealers pictures of the Heist before the show and then showing this piece of Suncrap.

I kind of felt bad for the US employees of this company. They took the papers they were given. They probably knew, but had to say things " I had no idea my Chinese bosses didn't tell me anything, they said we designed it " I mean why put people in those situations? My favorite was the guy who said “I need a paycheck.” So do I, but I don’t go about it ripping off a new design and sending emails that use someone else’s design.

I will post more videos shortly.

Goes back to why Indy is loosing it’s appeal. Where were the organizers in all this? You not only have a diminishing return on investment, but you have a show that has been completely taken over by fly-by-night companies. Small US distributors have to pay money up front and spend money to exhibit only to see bigger brands get booth spaces for free. They need to fix all this.

It was also pretty sad to have the auction going on at the same time as the show. Dealers were there to look at products not buy the liquidations of their fellow dealers. It just goes to show the world we live in. It was like feeding hamburgers to a bunch of cows. It’s just absolute cannibalism of the clients we make a living off. Add the Chinese copycats and it’s no wonder the show gives people a headache these days.

If I was the dealer show I would make sure they warn these guys next year because if I got to know the CCW people they will come down on these Chinese copycats pretty hard. They will probably get shut down or booted out next year.

I’ll make sure to be there when it happens.

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