From the influence of Internet sales to the integration of new materials and advanced manufacturing processes, the tire and wheel industries remain in flux. A tire tariff that threatened significant upheaval seems to have been overstated, but brick-and-mortar retailers are seeing the unmistakable effect of online sales. On the wheel side, flow forming, carbon fiber, concave designs and translucent colors are emerging trends.
It takes dedication, hard work and drive to build and grow an automotive specialty-equipment business. Even more so to grow an entire industry. Yet to help its members succeed and prosper, SEMA relies on individuals from every industry segment to step forward and bring their own vision and initiative. Consequently, it seems only fitting once a year to celebrate an individual whose contributions best embody this SEMA mission. For 2015, that individual is Kathryn Reinhardt of MagnaFlow, who found herself named SEMA Person of the Year at the recent 2015 SEMA Show Industry Banquet in Las Vegas.
The automotive specialty-equipment industry is built around innovation, and new products are its lifeblood. Each year, more than 2,000 new parts, instruments, assemblies and marketing tools are introduced at the New Products Showcase. And each year, one winner and two runners-up are selected from each of 16 categories as the best of the myriad offerings. While every item placed in the Showcase has the potential to create a revolution in the automotive realm, the following were selected as the cream of the crop at the 2015 SEMA Show.
The annual SEMA Show houses 13 aftermarket business categories under one roof, creating a laboratory of ideas that allows entrepreneurs to visualize novel crossover applications, managers to share technologies, and businesses to benefit from blended techniques and best practices. This year’s Show attracted trendsetters from every category and allowed them to capture an unprecedented array of business possibilities—all ultimately joined together by the automotive culture that every attendee shares.
U.S. Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA) was first elected to Congress in November 2014. While many freshman members of Congress come to Washington, D.C., with much to learn, Walters was ready from day one. Her background in business and experience in the California Legislature prepared her for the rigors of the nation’s capital. For the 50-plus SEMA-member companies in her district, based in Orange County, that’s a winning combination.
A series of awards are bestowed upon four vehicle models each year at the SEMA Show. In essence, the SEMA Award represents the industry’s choices for the most accessory-friendly vehicles entering the coming year. The selections include awards for the hottest car, truck, 4x4-SUV and sport compact, and they are determined through a count of the vehicles that exhibitors have chosen to display in their booths. This marks the fourth year that the SEMA Award presentations have been made.
Information is the key to sales. Automotive parts resellers—distributors, retailers and e-commerce dealers—need accurate information about product attributes such as weights and measures, descriptions, current pricing, UPC codes and more in order to power their lookup tools and point-of-sale systems. The SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) was created as a product-data repository to supply that information and more to the automotive specialty parts marketplace.
Each year, the SEMA Installation Gala gathers the industry together to thank outgoing SEMA Board of Directors members, install newly elected leaders and celebrate the association’s latest Hall of Fame inductees. In addition, daytime events leading up to the banquet include high-level Board and council discussions along with a heavy dose of fundraising for SEMA Cares, the association’s charity initiative. This year, the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles played host to the July 24 events, with the evening’s gala emceed by the legendary “Voice of the NHRA,” Dave McClelland.
Twenty-one SEMA-member companies recently traveled to Shanghai, China, for the 2015 SEMA China Business Development Program, which included meetings with U.S. government officials in the area, tours of customizing shops, including a new shop that focuses on upgrading and distributing parts solely for Mustangs, Corvettes and other U.S. late-model musclecars, exhibiting in the SEMA section at the sold-out China Auto Salon (CAS) and, for the first time, participating in a measuring session featuring the winning vehicles in a SEMA-conducted survey of top customized vehicles in China that are not available in the United States.
The 2015 Pinewood Builders Challenge, previously held every summer during SEMA’s Installation Gala, featured two major changes. Five of the nation’s premier custom-car builders crafted miniature pinewood hot rods that raced head to head last August at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to the Builders Challenge, a Manufacturers Shootout was held for the first time ever for eight participating members of the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA).