SEMA offers research and new ideas at annual education conference

Jan. 1, 2020
Mass customization, which on the surface seems to be an oxymoron, is a trend that is going mainstream and is likely to change the specialty parts business.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mass customization, which on the surface seems to be an oxymoron, is a trend that is going mainstream and is likely to change the specialty parts business, according to Jim Spoonhower, vice president of research for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

Speaking at SEMA’s 2008 National Education Conference in Nashville, Tenn., Spoonhower predicted that the specialty parts businesses that can customize their products or services to the masses stand to be the winners.

“The big thing to me is a shift from an industry that is driven by enthusiasts to one that is driven by everyday consumers,” he says. “Our member companies are accustomed to marketing for enthusiasts, and their response to the message and the product. With mass customization they may have to find new message points, and ensure that the product is just right for non-enthusiast customers.”

The OEMs have already traveled this road, he says, by pointing out their rapid model proliferation. This, of course, affects the specialty parts business both negatively and positively. Keeping up with increased SKUs and fitments will be a challenge, but at the same time the opportunity to develop a wider array of products could be a positive development, for both entrepreneurs and businesses wanting to expand.

According to Spoonhower, who was joined by a slew of other speakers, including Fox football analyst, Jimmy Johnson, says mass customization is already prevalent in other markets. He pointed out that you already can customize M&M candy and blue jeans, put your company’s logo on your favorite flavored soft drink or even design your own Nike shoes.

“This is driven by consumers who think ‘I can have anything anyway I want it.’” 
 Careful not to tell the 100-plus SEMA member audience what they should do, Spoonhower acted more as a guide to show what the audience would be faced with in a few years and to well into the future. At the more immediate and practical level, Spoonhower pointed out that the crossover market is one that needs more attention. “In 2004, crossovers had 9 percent of the market. In 2009, it is estimated they will make up 20.9 percent of the market.” He adds: “While new vehicle sales were down 3 percent, crossovers were up 18 percent.”

Looking down the road, Spoonhower says that fuel cell vehicles would replace combustion engine vehicles, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. “In the early automotive era, steam and electric vehicles were the norm.”

Although fuel cell vehicles may be quite a jump for some to make, other futuristic possibilities may be even harder to imagine. Spoonhower cites an example of how holographic images can literally change how we see things from a vehicle. “Imagine sitting in a vehicle and rather than looking out the windows, you’re looking at a 3-D image and basing the operation of a vehicle on that.”

Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO, echoed the need for research during the economic downturn in an interview between sessions.

“Don’t curl up and wait for the storm to pass,” Kersting emphasizes. “Now is the time to pay attention to where the market is headed.” He said there are many companies doing well in spite of the economy because they are staying on top of the market.

But Kersting isn’t surprised that some people may be a little slow in following his advice. “Our business has been so positive for such a long time, many people don’t even remember what it was like to go through a tough cycle like this.”
For day-to-day business advice, two presentations stood out — one by Garold Markle, founder and president of Energage; and one by Mike Mooney, vice president and account director at Millsport Motorsports.

Markle, in his presentation called “Catalytic Coaching: A Performance Management System that Works,” questioned some of the tired management practices that businesses continue to use blindly. Calling employee performance evaluations “instruments of torture,” Markle says they don’t make employees better employees; rather, they are used out of habit and for the wrong reasons.

“The number one reason companies use performance evaluations is for their legal protection,” he says. Ironically, though, Markle says that employee evaluations are the number one defense that employees use against their employers.

Markle’s evaluation process is designed to be positive and to get the employee involved. A three-step method, his system first gets employees to discuss their accomplishments, disappointments and personal growth. The next step is where the manager outlines his or her view of the employee’s strengths, areas for improvement and development. Third, and most important, is an action plan that centers on improvement goals and strength capitalization.

Mooney, vice president and account director at Millsport Motorsports, presented “New Business and Marketing Technologies,” which included several cutting-edge technologies that could be used in the specialty parts business. Perhaps the most intriguing are Avatars, animated customer representatives, i.e. cartoon-like characters, used on Web sites that can be tailored any way a business desires. “You can change their hairstyle and color, pick any kind of clothes, give them facial hair…anything you like,” Mooney says. 

“Avatars differentiate a business away from text-heavy Web sites,” Mooney continues. “They literally give companies a face. Research shows that viewers are attracted to the human face, whether it’s real or animated. And with an Avatar, you don’t have to pay a model or a spokesperson.”

Keynoting the event was Johnson, one of only five coaches in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

Having taken the worst team in the league to winning a Super Bowl presented Johnson with the problem of trying to repeat. “The biggest enemy of great is being good,” says Johnson. “As we had success, it was so much harder to get better.”

The secret to his success rests with how he treated his players. “I treated everybody differently because fair and equal doesn’t exist…in business, in a company or on a football team.

“It was my job to bring in the right people, eliminate the wrong people and create the best atmosphere possible so that the right people can excel.” 

To illustrate this practice, Johnson told a story about John Roper, a special teams player who fell asleep during a film session. Johnson asked for the projector to be turned off and the lights turned on. And noting that he wasn’t “as mellow as I am now,” he woke Roper and said, “Evidently, you’re not getting enough sleep at home!”

“John was making $600,000 a year and fell asleep. We cut him that day because it was my job to put the best team on the field and someone who falls asleep in a team meeting doesn’t have the best interest of the team in mind.”
Johnson said he was questioned what he would have done if star quarterback Troy Aikman would have been the one who was asleep. “I would have tiptoed back there and whispered, ‘Please wake up.’”

Sponsored Recommendations

Best Body Shop and the 360-Degree-Concept

Spanesi ‘360-Degree-Concept’ Enables Kansas Body Shop to Complete High-Quality Repairs

How Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrow Collision Center, Achieves Their Spot-On Measurements

Learn how Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrison Collision Center, equipped their new collision facility with “sleek and modern” equipment and tools from Spanesi Americas...

ADAS Applications: What They Are & What They Do

Learn how ADAS utilizes sensors such as radar, sonar, lidar and cameras to perceive the world around the vehicle, and either provide critical information to the driver or take...

Banking on Bigger Profits with a Heavy-Duty Truck Paint Booth

The addition of a heavy-duty paint booth for oversized trucks & vehicles can open the door to new or expanded service opportunities.