Finding value at the SEMA show

Jan. 1, 2020
It's no revelation that the specialty aftermarket has been hit hard by the down economy, as thrifty car owners are spending more to fill their tanks and less on non-essential automotive accessories. Yet in this rapidly changing market, it's more impo

A few new twists at this specialty event will help attendees learn more than ever

SEMA seminars SEMA education specialty aftermarket trade show
It's no revelation that the specialty aftermarket has been hit hard by the down economy, as thrifty car owners are spending more to fill their tanks and less on non-essential automotive accessories. Yet in this rapidly changing market, it's more important than ever to stay on top of the new trends and products that will affect the way business is done going into 2009 and beyond, say officials from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

That's why this year's show has a few new twists this year, all centered on the idea of value.

First of all, this year's educational seminars focus on "Staying competitive in the automotive specialty equipment market amidst today's challenging economy." These sessions are held in conjunction with the 2008 SEMA Show Nov. 3-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (The show itself runs Nov. 4-7.)

"As a trade-only event, the SEMA Show is about connecting manufacturers with buyers, and the seminar program is a simple and convenient way for the industry to further expand their business," says Della Domingo, SEMA public relations director.

This year's educational program includes more than 60 seminars and 100 speakers. For the first time, the sessions will be broken down into "tracks" to make it easier to identify the sessions that are relevant to one's business. Sessions include custom services and sales solutions, international, marketing trends, small business finance and more.

"The educational seminars are great way for attendees to capitalize on their show investment by taking advantage of learning opportunities that can help them achieve success after they leave Las Vegas," says Nathan Ridnouer, SEMA's senior director of member services.

New audience

In research conducted for SEMA, Jon Hedges, president of the consulting firm Hedges & Company, has noticed an increase in the traditional parts stores and jobbers attending the SEMA Show during the last several years.

"The SEMA Show is increasingly becoming a destination for traditional resellers looking to sell a broader line of products," Hedges notes. Traditional resellers are attending to look first for accessories for customers' vehicles, and secondly for performance items.

That trend looks to continue this year as companies look to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

"Especially for the traditional parts stores and jobbers, the ability to see first-hand the cutting edge products and technologies unveiled at the show gives them a huge advantage over the competition," says Domingo. "Their customers depend on this, and you just can't put a value on that."

Getting green

Another difference attendees may notice is that the SEMA Show will look a lot more green this year. With the increase in consumer demand, and in recognition of the specialty-equipment industry's commitment to advancing green vehicle products and solutions, SEMA plans to showcase the latest environmentally conscious innovations in a special Green Zone.

"Going green is no longer an option — nearly 85 percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists," says John Waraniak, SEMA's vice president of vehicle technology. "SEMA wants to demonstrate that bringing more environmentally responsible vehicle technologies and products to the marketplace doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice performance and the 'coolness' factor."

The new generation of performance and will create new and exciting business opportunities for SEMA members and the specialty-equipment industry and bring greater value to the industry's customer base, Waraniak adds.

Many of these green vehicle technologies — such as clean diesels, advanced hybrid powertrains, extended range and pure electric vehicles — will be discussed at the SEMA Vehicle Technology Briefing Seminar: "The Green Scene: Clean Diesels, Wild Hybrids and Muscle Electrics" being held on Nov. 5 (10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Las Vegas Convention Center, room N258) at the SEMA Show.

Adding value

A final value-add to this year's SEMA Show comes down to dollars. SEMA has worked out deals for lower room rates with several Las Vegas hotels, lower ticket prices on JetBlue Airways and discounted passes for the Las Vegas monorail.

"This is a tough year, and we recognize that it's difficult for many of in the industry, especially for many of our exhibitors who are represent small businesses," Domingo says. "We truly do understand that dollars are tight right now and people need to be careful about investing in their businesses, but with more than 125,000 attendess, the SEMA Show remains the single best source for creating new business opportunities and making connections."

"For the same investment that is required to make one sales call, you can come to the SEMA Show and walk away with what amounts to dozens of sales calls — that is a pretty efficient use of dollars."

Casey Clapper contributed to this article.