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2007 SEMA Show – Toy Store for Auto Junkies


Viva Las Vegas
I love Vegas. Lights, gambling, food, beautiful women, cocktails, and not a working clock in sight. Hell meets Disneyland in a world that does not shun alcohol or tobacco for breakfast. Don’t misunderstand me, moderation saves, but this environment screams fun. Regardless of your level of debauchery, the guy next to you makes you feel like a saint. If they could figure out a way to thwart my email connection, I’d move here in a heartbeat.
I look forward to the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas more than most of my assignments, and we at VehicleVoice get assigned some pretty cool marching orders.


Having made the annual trek to Vegas since 1993, I’ve had a pretty good look at how this show has evolved over the past several years. After this year’s show, I’m starting to re-think my approach to SEMA. In the past, SEMA was a matter of mind over matter. Put on your most comfortable shoes, take some time to review the floor plan, put together a game plan that meets your objectives, and hit the carpet. Regardless of the efficiency of your plan, you could get a sense of what was the coolest new vehicle to modify, and what people are doing in the marketplace. With a little luck, you might bump into a few dozen people you know who share your passion.

This year clearly proved to me that the SEMA show is no longer fun. It’s work. Before we go there, Let me first describe the environment to the unacquainted.
Produced by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a non-profit trade association composed of more than 7,000 member companies, the annual SEMA Show is the premier automotive accessories trade event in the world. Serving the $36.7 billion automotive specialty-equipment industry.
In 1967 the first SEMA Show took place in Los Angeles filling 98 booths with 3,000 attendees. Since then, the SEMA Show has grown dramatically. This year 2,000 exhibitors, filled over one million square feet of exhibit space to showcase their latest products and services to more than 125,000 attendees from more than 100 countries include manufacturers, retailers, jobbers, engineers, designers, buyers, industry leaders, analysts and the media from the automotive specialty-equipment industry. That’s twenty percent more attendees than last year.
The 2007 SEMA Show has it all:
• Racing and performance products for the street and sanctioned motor sports
• Sport compact appearance upgrades, engine-tuning products, electronics and suspension modifications
• Suspension, lighting, tube products, winches and more for off-road vehicles
• Restyling and appearance products, including tires and wheels, for cars, trucks, vans and SUVs
• Mobile electronics and on-board technology—audio, video, entertainment and security, plus the latest technological advances including in-vehicle computing and software, global positioning systems and more
• Authentic reproduction and restoration products for muscle cars, classics and vintage vehicles
Everything Changes
Now comes the rub. After years of giving lip service to the importance of the aftermarket in maintaining interest and emotion in the automotive industry, many automakers are now part of the show. (It’s amazing what $36 billion can do for motivation.)
This year’s show included the presence of 14 automakers promoting 30 brands with everything from design sketches of future vehicles to, performance and appearance mods and clean diesel power plants. Between OEMs and aftermarket companies, the press event schedule made the Detroit Auto show look like child’s play. Yes, tele-prompters were on the scene, giving the show floor the creative feel of an Al Gore appearance.

I know, growth is inevitable, especially in today’s world of technology and computer generated prototypes. Somehow I had hoped that SEMA would remain, well SEMA. No such luck. The OEM presence is everywhere. Navigating the isles requires a fullback and excellent map reading skills. Moreover, getting a read on the show is work. As proof, I asked several colleagues which vehicle was the star of the show. (Typically, customizers gravitate to one or two vehicles to express their creativity and promote their new products and services.) This year’s show reinforced the dominance of trucks in the aftermarket, but showed no specific vehicle of choice.
The SEMA show now appears to be two shows in one, pitting the power of marketing budgets, over the creativity of the smaller enthusiast. While this does not kill the spirit of the show, it is certainly changing it.

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