By Della Domingo
In 2012, under the Market Development Cooperator Program within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), SEMA imported a Toyota HiLux for members to measure and create export-ready product.
Representing the $33 billion automotive specialty-equipment market, SEMA has been awarded part of a $2.2M federal grant to expand exports of automotive aftermarket products into foreign markets, including Russia, the United Arab Emirates and China.
The grant, under the Market Development Cooperator Program within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), will help the association provide exporting opportunities for its members. They include a new yearly fact-finding and sales mission to Russia, working with government officials to seek pro-industry regulations that allow U.S. products equal market access, and organizing overseas vehicle measuring sessions in key emerging markets.
SEMA Measuring Sessions give member companies the opportunity to study and measure vehicles in order to develop quality products and accessories consumers can use to personalize and customize their cars, trucks and SUVs.
The $300,000 portion of the grant allocated to SEMA will enable the association to expand the program overseas and hold measuring sessions in each market, augmenting SEMA's popular three-year program of importing non-U.S. vehicles to the SEMA Garage at its Southern California headquarters under special exemption.
For the program’s initial phase, SEMA imported a Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger T6, Mitsubishi L200 and UAZ Hunter, none of which are sold in the United States, but have strong followings in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, China and South America.
"As a global trade association, SEMA seeks to help member companies grow and expand their businesses," said Linda Spencer, SEMA's international and government relations director. "One of the many ways SEMA helps its members grow is through exporting. For many of our members, exporting products to key international markets is integral to their success, and SEMA is available to help identify strategic markets and guide members along the way."
U.S. exports hit an all-time record of $2.3 trillion in 2013, and supported more than 11 million American jobs, according to the Department of Commerce.
SEMA’s Export Initiatives
Over the past two decades, SEMA has developed a successful track record regarding its overseas work. SEMA places a high priority on assisting member companies with diversifying their customer base and taking advantage of export opportunities as the global demand for the automotive industry's products soars.
As the typical SEMA-member company has a relatively small staff and modest budget compared to larger firms, SEMA’s export programs and services are considered an extension to their staffs and fill a vital void by providing needed global expansion resources.
For SEMA members, new geographic markets offer opportunities to create new revenue streams and reach new customers. Numerous studies have shown that exporters outperform non-exporters in terms of wages, productivity and innovation and, equally important, this diversification can make firms more resilient during economic downturns.
SEMA assists U.S. companies to identify strategic markets and guide its members along the way. Initiatives include promoting international research to identify developing markets, working with international officials on legislative issues, creating venues for SEMA members to connect with international buyers and organizing trade missions to key countries throughout the year. Another initiative includes importing vehicles popular internationally but not sold in the United States in order to assist U.S. companies to create export-ready product.
A partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce enhanced with a 2011 Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) award was a key factor to growing the range and depth of SEMA’s programs beyond the traditional markets to which U.S. manufacturers export, such as those in Europe, Australia and Japan.
Since September 2011, nearly 300 U.S. companies have traveled to China and/or the Middle East with SEMA, and/or have measured vehicles popular in key overseas markets. Export sales by participants in SEMA's one-on-one programs in the Middle East and China have resulted in nearly $50 million.
Thirteen SEMA-member companies taking advantage of the expanded SEMA international programs have received Department of Commerce Export Achievement awards. Additional achievement awards are also expected to be presented at the 2014 SEMA Show.