An Exclusive Progress Report on the SEMA Data Co-opWhen SEMA launched the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) a little over two years ago, the goal was admittedly ambitious: to revolutionize the way automotive specialty-equipment manufacturers (data suppliers) convey product information to warehouse distributors and resellers (data receivers) for the benefit of all. Now, according to Jon Wyly, the co-op’s CEO, the SDC is delivering thousands of data sets a week, representing millions of part numbers and tens of millions of vehicle applications, through a database that continues to grow by leaps and bounds daily.
Never Enough Auto Accessories Blossoms From the Owner’s EnthusiasmFrom its inception, the automotive specialty-equipment industry has been built in large measure by enthusiasts who followed their passions. Brad Vlastuin fits that mold.Vlastuin enjoyed cruise-ins and car gatherings around his hometown in Michigan back in the days when neon lighting and exterior accessories were the hot ticket for import cars. He owned a Toyota Matrix and found that others who attended the same events were in search of products similar to those he was interested in. He began to track down and offer accessories to his fellow enthusiasts, and he was soon running what was essentially a small business out of the trunk of his car.
Questions From Your Industry PeersContinuing the theme from our last column in the October issue of SEMA News, let’s look at some questions that came from the Council Summit in Pomona, California, back in July. The folks attending this event represented a great cross-section of the industry, and all were very inquiring minds that made for some great conversation and questions.
The message is clear: Automotive customization is thriving, and American-based businesses are at the forefront of product technology and innovation for the industry. As highlighted in the recent “SEMA Annual Market Study,” the automotive specialty-equipment market now represents $33 billion in annual sales—a 7% increase over the previous year.
Now in its seventh year of existence, Hot Rodders of Tomorrow (HROT) enables young automotive enthusiasts to develop and show off their mechanical skills while being exposed to the automotive specialty-equipment industry. The organization’s purpose is to replenish the aging automotive field with essential future talent by expanding high-school education programs and providing career guidance to students while promoting the value of teamwork. “We started out recruiting high-school and college students and soon realized where the need was,” said Jim Bingham, HROT chairman and president/CEO of Winner’s Circle Speed & Custom based in Joliet, Illinois. “At the high-school level, we can get kids pointed in the right direction; we’re actually changing lives. It sends a chill down your spine when you see what you’ve done for these kids; we’re getting them to go to school.”
Shelby American had a presence at the High Performance and Custom Equipment Trade Show at Dodger Stadium in 1967, the event that would go on to become the SEMA Show. It’s interesting to see what’s in the Shelby booth—as well as what’s not. Shelby’s iconic Cobra roadster and the GT350 Mustang are represented only by photos on the booth’s back wall. Note, too, the “wanted” poster on the easel soliciting for manufacturer’s representatives to handle Shelby’s parts and equipment.The engine in the center of the booth is a small-block Ford outfitted with a Paxton supercharger. Shelby began offering the blower on ’66 GT350 models, though the expensive option found few takers. Only 11 GT350s left the factory as supercharged models.
We’re pleased to report that the SEMA Data Co-op has surpassed critical mass and is rolling! Your industry-owned product data repository now has more than 350 brands covering more than 2.7 million live part numbers. Every week, we see thousands of data exports pulled down by data receivers—our industry’s resellers and retailers. That means that more products are getting more exposure, leading to increased sales. That’s great news. Meanwhile, the marketplace continues to evolve. These days, more than 50% of all sales begin with online research, and studies show that a product listing that offers an image is more than twice as likely to sell as one with no image. Rich data—images with multiple views, video files, audio files—is reported to be as much as 17 times more likely to prompt a sale.
With the Right Demographic, a Potential BoonBusinesses with a significant demographic skewed toward “hipper,” generally younger tech users—people who like to stay on the edge of what’s happening digitally—should take a serious look at QR-code marketing. Most of us have come across a QR (quick reach) code in our travels. It’s that framed square of hieroglyphic-like symbols that we flip to in a magazine, which triggers our smartphones to reveal a company website when scanned. Or it’s on that advertisement we see at an airport or train station that, when scanned, conjures up an electronic coupon on our tablets that can be used at a coffee shop, often only steps away.