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SEMA Council & Network News: HRIA Builder’s Challenge Results

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No matter what niche you're in—rods, restoration, racing, restyling, trucks or wheels and tires—there’s a SEMA council or professional network that's right for your company. SEMA councils and networks offer members a variety of market-specific programs and activities designed to provide educational and networking opportunities while promoting their particular industry segment.


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HRIA Builder’s Challenge defending champion Blake Meaux of Mo’ Muscle Cars reclaimed his title of “Grand Champion,” winning the overall race for the second year in a row.

HRIA Builder’s Challenge Results

The Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) held its annual Builder’s Challenge last week at the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. The program, started in 2010, is designed to showcase the talents of nationally known builders along with up-and-coming builders by giving them the opportunity to create one-of-a-kind pinewood hot rods. A crowd of spectators gathered to watch as the builders raced their performing pieces of art. Defending champion Blake Meaux of Mo’ Muscle Cars reclaimed his title of “Grand Champion,” winning the overall race for the second year in a row.

A total of 12 pinewoods were built by 10 top-tier builders with the top five receiving awards. Thank you to all of the builders and participants in the 2016 HRIA Builder’s Challenge. Each of these pinewood hot rods will be on display in the HRIA Booth (#23395) at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Also taking place at the SEMA Show, HRIA Reception attendees will have the opportunity to bid in a live auction to take one of these special vehicles home with them. All auction proceeds go to SEMA Cares Charities.

The awards results are below:

  • Builder’s Challenge – Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars
  • Manufacturers Shootout – RideTech
  • Grand Champion – Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars
  • Best Engineered – Tom Farrell, Farrell Creations & Restorations
  • Best in Show – Alex Benevides, Hot Company Brazil

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TORA is looking for feature vehicle submissions in areas such as: lifted vehicles, diesel, Jeep/SUV, off-road and street/lowered vehicles.

TORA Feature Vehicle Applications Now Open

The Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA) is looking for feature vehicles for the 2016 SEMA Show. Those who have a vehicle that represents the TORA membership are encouraged to apply. The council will look for submissions in areas such as: lifted vehicles, diesel, Jeep/SUV, off-road and street/lowered vehicles. The SEMA Show is the most well-attended trade event in the automotive aftermarket industry, attracting more than 60,000 buyers. Having a feature vehicle at the Show will bring invaluable exposure for the builders and manufacturers featured on each vehicle.

Seven vehicles will be selected to be featured at the Show; two vehicles will be displayed in the TORA booth in Upper South Hall, while the other five will be featured throughout common areas outside of the convention center.

Read more about the TORA Feature Vehicle criteria and apply now. The deadline to apply is September 2, 2016.

If you have any questions, contact Allan Keefe, senior manager of councils, at 909-978-6696 or

TORA Media Preview Registration Now Open

The Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA) is now accepting applications for the 2016 Media Preview event, which will take place Monday, October 31, prior to the opening of the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

This event is a unique opportunity for truck accessory manufacturers to meet face-to-face with more than 150 editors and reporters, making contacts and introducing new products without sacrificing valuable floor time with buyers. Throughout the four-hour event, the manufacturers can show samples and answer questions about their products.

Each of the manufacturer participants is selected from the application pool by a lottery-style process to set up temporary exhibit space within the Media Center. Application period runs from August 11–September 9.

Apply now to exhibit at the 2016 TORA Media Preview event.

For more information regarding exhibiting, contact Allan Keefe at, 909-978-6696.

For more information about attending as a member of the media, contact Della Domingo at, 909-978-6723.

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Steven Rossi

YEN Member Insight: Steven Rossi, TruXmart

Tell us about yourself.

First, the love of cars and trucks has always defined me as a person. The lifestyle, culture and utility of a pickup is a love I share with 50 million other truck owners in the United States. My uncle gave me my first pickup at the age of seven, when I began to learn about trucks and making forts! This is also when I made my first custom tonneau cover with my father. At the age of 17, I started my first business while working toward a college degree in biology. I quickly fell in love with “being my own boss” and building a business from the ground up. With no more than $500 in my pocket, my first business grew and eventually sold when I decided to invest my time and entrepreneurial knowledge in crafting tonneau covers. That is when I started TruXmart Tonneau Covers in May 2011.

Who/what are your major influencers?

My influencers are my superheroes—my father and my COO Steve Raivio. These two great people guided and supported me in growing as a businessman. My father taught me to never give up and to face each obstacle as something that will make me stronger, smarter and better. Steve Raivio taught me everything about ethical growth, customer service and to always learn something new each week, month and year. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for them.

What is TruXmart and how does it work?

TruXmart was founded on the principals of innovation and produces the best tonneau covers in the market today. What we do is build products that suit the well-featured light trucks of today in a market full of “me too” and status quo. There are 50 million light trucks on the roads in the United States. Light trucks are more fuel efficient and advanced, and we believe there need to be tonneau covers to complement those trucks. A tonneau cover is the most crucial and complementary add-on for light trucks, and only about 22% of trucks have this “must-have” accessory installed. That means that an overwhelming 78% of truck owners haven’t found the right product for their truck, and that is what TruXmart is here for—to meet the needs of today’s savvy consumer.

What was the hardest part of bringing your product to market?

Our market is very established. The same manufacturers have been making the same product and selling them to the same vendors for decades. Finding distribution in a long-established market is hard. In a market full of manufacturers replicating the same cover with very little differences, we’re forging our own path and working to evolve from “another tonneau cover” to a full modular truck bed system with functional usage and innovation as the catalyst that propels us to a new era for tonneau covers and light trucks around the world.  We continue to partner with vendors in markets across the globe who desire more than “another tonneau cover;” those who wish to stay ahead of the curve and find value in our innovations.

How has social media changed how you get your product to the end customer?

Social media has helped us by providing new customers insight on our product lines. A truck owner looking for a tonneau cover for a truck can quickly see the positive feedback, reviews, videos and photos of our products from other TruXmart customers. Amateur video reviews on YouTube and photos and reviews on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allows new customers to feel more confident in purchasing a TruXmart product since they can clearly see the thousands of satisfied TruXmart supporters and consumers around the world.

What was the hardest part about building a dealer network?

The hardest part of building a strong dealer network is establishing value and trust. We’ve found that more than 80% of independent (small to medium) auto accessory dealers have lost faith in manufacturers that “outgrow” them. Building a trusting partnership is hard; not breaking those bonds and partnerships can be even more difficult. It is all too common for new manufactures to work directly with dealers while trying to find master distribution. Once this distribution is found the dealers are often long forgotten. TruXmart’s guiding principal is “ethical growth,” where we form long-term partnerships by supporting those who support us. It is working with these customers who help us ensure we are in touch with new market trends and potential product improvements.

In your opinion, are young people still interested in off-roading/trucks? What would be your advice as to how companies can connect with them?

Of course there is a passion for trucks and off-roading for youth. I was among that segment when I was young and it was support for the love of trucks that brought me to where I am today. I believe that conveying information about our exciting and dynamic market is pivotal to intriguing young minds. All too often companies only release media (photos and videos) just about their products. But capturing young minds by conveying the underlying commonality—the love for trucks—needs to be front row and center. Companies should connect with young enthusiasts by supporting local car and truck clubs, schools, tech programs and also by focusing more the big picture—customizing and building something of your very own. Find a stock truck and use the products we make to personalize it to suit their needs and style.

What should we look for from TruXmart in the future?

We’re excited about our TruXmart Alpha and the Alpha Helios edition. We cannot release product information right now, but we hope to amaze the world with our newest innovations before the end of 2016. The Alpha is going to be the most innovative tonneau cover that will change the direction of our market from just a tonneau cover to the world’s first modular and fully functional truck bed cover system. The Helios? Let’s just say that the Helios are based on the Alpha’s innovative platform, but with an added benefit that will electrify our market!

What advice would you give to someone chasing a new idea?

Surround yourself with like-minded positive people and keep your nose to the grindstone. Like my superhero taught me when I was young, every obstacle you face and overcome will get you closer to your dream. The world needs your innovation and your idea; you just need to believe in yourself and your dream. Hard work and perseverance will get you there.

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