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SEMA News—December 2011

Plugging Into New Markets

Following a successful SEMA Show, it’s time to catch our breath and perhaps take a moment to ponder where we go from here.

Feedback following the Show suggests that the economy might not be booming, but many of our member companies are making progress. Those businesses have dug in and made the moves that will make it possible to thrive during a prolonged recovery period. That’s a reasonable strategy, since it seems clear that significant growth in our traditional markets is still somewhere out in the future.

What are the options for finding growth? One path is to branch out into related markets.

We’re already hearing from members who have begun to develop a presence in fields outside the traditional enthusiast market. We know of companies selling into agricultural markets, selling to the armed services, adapting product for commercial use and, certainly not least, selling overseas.

Making these transitions requires investment—no doubt about it—and there is risk in knowing exactly where and how to apply those dollars. That’s why SEMA places a high priority on helping members locate promising new markets and making the pathway as smooth as possible.

We recently got a bit of good news from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which named SEMA the recipient of a $500,000 grant as part of a market-development program aimed at stimulating U.S. exports of specialty-equipment products.

In awarding the grant, the U.S. Department of Commerce recognized that SEMA has already delivered some successful programs, that we have developed a network of key people overseas and that we were actively working with overseas governments to develop appropriate regulations covering vehicle modifications. It didn’t hurt that SEMA members are mostly small- and medium-size companies with a proven reputation for innovation and adaptability.

The U.S. Department of Commerce grant will benefit SEMA members in a number of different ways. First, it adds to association resources when it comes to supporting some of our overseas business-development initiatives. We’re already helping member businesses get started in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and the world’s most populous country, China.

Our recent one-on-one matchmaker program in Beijing brought together SEMA-member manufacturers with pre-vetted distributors and retailers of specialty products from throughout China. This turnkey approach provides a low-cost opportunity for members to explore emerging markets. You’ll find a report, including feedback from SEMA-member companies that attended, on p. 54 of the December 2011 issue of SEMA News. With this additional funding, we’ll be able to do more for SEMA members.

Another booming auto-enthusiast market that SEMA is helping its members explore is the United Arab Emirates and surrounding Gulf countries. Motorsports and vehicle personalization have a strong and growing base throughout the region, and a quick drive around Dubai or Abu Dhabi would surprise any gearhead with the wide variety of customized vehicles traveling the roads.

Recognizing the market potential, SEMA has teamed up with the U.S. government to bring the turnkey, one-on-one matchmaker concept to the Middle East. Join SEMA manufacturers in April for the first SEMA Middle East Business Development Conference (April 17–21) and meet with importers and wholesalers from throughout the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries. More information is available here.

You’ll be hearing more about alternative markets and especially export opportunities in the coming year. Members who would like to get started today should visit here, and stay tuned for more information.

—Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO