Global Update

Six Reasons to Travel With SEMA to the UAE

By Linda Spencer

Forty-two SEMA-member companies participated in the 2014 SEMA Middle East program. Pictured (far right) is Mike Copeland, vice president of Lingenfelter Per­formance Engineering.
Last year, Rigid Industries LED Lighting—an LED light­ing manufacturer based in Gilbert, Arizona—participated in the SEMA Middle East trip for the first time. Paula Argiropou­los (center), is the company’s international sales manager.
“I can’t think of a better way to investigate the potential of a market than an industry trip like this,” said Lake Speed Jr. (right), general manager of Driven Racing Oil. “It provided the perfect balance of shop vis­its, local market intelligence and interaction with buyers. The level of infrastructure, the passion about motorsports, the sophistica­tion of the speed shops we’ve visited—it’s every bit of what we have on Main Street USA. It’s not anything I could have under­stood without being here, feeling it and seeing it.”

Exhibitor registration for the fourth-annual SEMA fact-finding and networking visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is now open. The 2015 Middle East Business Development Program, taking place March 24–28, will involve site visits, the chance to exhibit at an Abu Dhabi-based show, participating in an International Measuring Session and networking events.

The program—which includes exhibiting fees, hotels, meals, networking events and the chance to measure vehicles not sold in the United States—is designed to create opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to meet with pre-vetted buyers from the six Middle Eastern countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This political and economic alliance includes Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In 2014, resellers from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and India also attended. Thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. government can help qualified firms defray the costs.

To give prospective 2015 attendees an idea of what to expect, check out the 2014 trip report, which includes a list of last year’s exhibitors. More information can be found at, or by contacting Linda Spencer at to set up a one-on-one briefing on the trip's features.

Six Facts about the region include:

  • Demand for SEMA-type product is strong. According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce report, greatest product demand areas include: 4WD accessories (for both on- and off-road use), classic car products, performance products, exterior upgrades and window film.
  • Consumers in the region have deep pockets—The UAE and GCC have among the world’s highest per-capita disposable incomes, and thus, the funds to pursue their hobby. As more people have money to spend and the local economy continues to grow, consumer expenditure in the is expected to top Dh766 billion this year—up by 7% from 2013—according to Euromonitor International—a London-based market intelligence firm.
  • Similar to the United States, the region's consumers seek large vehicles. The low cost of fuel combined with local tastes result in a vehicle park much like in the United States, with a significant share of the market taken by light trucks. For example, in 2013, slightly more than half of the vehicles sold in Saudi Arabia were light trucks (SUVs, pickups and minivans). In the UAE, this figure is 53%.
  • The UAE is a regional hub with a number of distributors in that market selling within the GCC and beyond.
  • Off-roading is a region-wide pastime. Learn what sort of products are needed given the conditions of a sandy terrain and extreme heat.
  • It is said that the UAE spends more per capita on motorsports than anywhere else in the world. The Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit are within one hour’s distance of each other, and the Bahrain International Circuit is in nearby Bahrain. The Yas Circuit on Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi became the first drag-racing track outside the United States to be sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). The Bahrain International Circuit followed in June 2011.