This year Expo came a week early, on October 19th through the 22nd. This was our second year in a row at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, at one of the most prime locations on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
You’ve seen it on TV, with the Eiffel Tower protruding from its front lobby. Just across the street are the Fountains of Bellagio; Cesars is on the corner, and the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops is right next door.
This was the backdrop for this year’s Expo, and what an Expo it was! Transmission industry professionals from every corner of the globe converged at the Paris to work together to learn… to share… and to create a more profitable future for each of us.
How did it go? Well, if the people who were there were to be believed, it was a success of epic proportions.
As always, the technical sessions kicked off early, at 7:30 Thursday morning. The management seminars were earlier than in previous years, but still allowed for management to grab a little extra shuteye and a nice breakfast. Apparently it is good to be the king!
And the technical seminars were packed. According to ATRA Technical Director Lance Wiggins, even the Thursday seminars were greeted by a full house, and they remained full for the entire 32 hours of technical training sessions. This year, the Thursday seminars went until nearly 7PM, with an hour-and-a-half break for lunch.
The seminars covered subjects that included introductions to some of the latest transmissions to hit the streets, tips for restoring functional reliability, and scope diagnosis.
But one of the big hits of the day was the CVT workshop, and no wonder: CVTs are becoming commonplace in shops all across the country, and anyone who isn’t versed in them won’t be working in this business long.
This year, the Thursday management seminar was a little different, with a daylong program from Alex Goldfayn, called Selling Boldly. His message? If you want to sell, don’t be shy: be bold and create the sale you’re looking for. It’s a smart message to improve your shop’s bottom line.
As the seminars came to an end, people met up with friends and coworkers and headed out to explore the nightlife on the Las Vegas Strip. For most, it was their first chance to reconnect with old friends and catch up with people they hadn’t seen since the previous year.
Friday was another early morning for the tech side of the program, beginning once again at 7:30. First up? Another, more advanced look at oscilloscope diagnostic procedures. That was followed by an introduction to the ZF 8-speed hybrid. We closed out the morning with a look at the latest all wheel drive systems.
Management seminars began an hour later, with ATRA CEO Dennis Madden and GEARS Managing Editor Rodger Bland discussing the path to go from mindset to mission. They were followed by the always-enjoyable and informative Maylon Newton, who shared his views on building decision makers in your shop.
These seminars led into the annual ATRA luncheon, hosted as always by Raybestos Powertrain. It was a sumptuous lunch amid friendly banter and camaraderie as everyone prepared for the opening of the trade show.
This year, we switched things up a bit. Instead of a keynote speaker, we stepped back a few years, back to the days when we enjoyed an entertainer at lunch. And what an entertainer it was!
Murray “the Magician” Sawchuck performed his magic act to a full house. You’ve probably seen Murray on the TV show Pawn Stars, where he provides technical advice regarding old magic props, and performing his illusions on the show Masters of Illusion.
About halfway through his performance, Murray asked whether Walt Swanson was on hand (he was). Turns out Walt had fixed Murray’s transmission a few years before, and Walt was the one who connected Murray with ATRA for the show. Thanks, Walt!
After lunch was over, those in attendance moved on to the opening of the trade show. The trade show floor bustled with activity, and everyone seemed pleased with the turnout.
The ATRA Chapter Planning meeting, which also took place on Friday, was well attended with representatives from 7 ATRA Chapters, and ATRA Events Director Vanessa Velasquez. Ideas for Chapter involvement, engaging their local communities and other ways to enhance the transmission rebuilding industry were discussed at great length.
Then everyone got together for an evening of hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and music at the annual Transtar Cocktail Reception, where they were treated to a magnificent band and festivities that went on until 9pm.
Throughout the reception, Monte Ahuja made his way around from table to table, shaking hands and welcoming people to the event.
Saturday’s tech seminars split into two: the regular seminars and the return of Transmissions 101, a program designed to help young people and recent additions move their way up the chain. This year’s program included seminars on R&R 101, Scan Tool 101, the basics of ATF, and a class on what you need to know about series electrical circuits.
While Transmissions 101 was going on, the regular technical and management seminars began. Tech covered rebuilding tips, points about converter control, an introduction to the 845RFE, and how to isolate transmission problems in diesels that have a tuner installed.
The management seminar brought in shop owner MaryAnn Croce, who spoke about the things she’s learned over the years about letting go to gain control of your business. She was followed by the return engagement of Nancy Friedman, who’s always a management favorite, as she presented the seven traits of a successful leader.
At noon, the trade show floor opened again. Then, at 3pm, ATRA Longtimers got together for their annual meeting.
Sunday morning tech started at 9 with a Hydraulics 101 seminar, followed by a closing seminar on the Toyota and Lexus U881E and GM AF50 8-speed transmission.
For the management folks, John Anderson offered his experience in selling businesses to help attendees learn the best way to make a smart exit.
For those of you who’ve been fighting through the tough weather patterns, fire, or something even more tragic, we understand why you couldn’t be here. Our thoughts are with you, and we hope you get back on your feet before next year. And we look forward to seeing you at next year’s Expo.
For 2018, we’re back to opening for Industry Week — October 31st through November 3rd. Which means you can come for Expo, and directly following is SEMA and AAPEX. And the program will be hosted right next door, at Bally’s Las Vegas. It’s sure to be a magnificent event; we’ll be looking for you there!