By Chad Simon
Jessi Combs and Jarod DeAnda emceed the 2018 SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, themed “Success Starts Here.”
Themed “Success Starts Here” the 2018 SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, held Thursday, November 1, at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, celebrated the specialty-equipment market’s contributors and innovators. Guided by emcees Jarod DeAnda and Jessi Combs, the evening also featured live music from blues-inspired rock-pop artist ZZ Ward.
About 2,500 automotive aftermarket industry attendees paid tribute to the newest members of the SEMA Hall of Fame—industry pioneers, volunteers and personalities who helped to pave the way and shape a specialty automotive marketplace that is now $43 billion strong. The 2018 Hall of Fame inductees were Donnie Eatherly, Ed Pink and Chris Thomson.
The annual celebration included an awards program in which SEMA's Person of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year, GEN-III Innovator of the Year, Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year and Warehouse Distributor of the Year honors were presented. The winners were:
- Person of the Year – Melanie White – President, Hellwig Suspension Products
- Manufacturer of the Year – Aeromotive Inc.
- GEN-III Innovator of the Year – Jon Pulli – CEO, Turn 14 Distribution
- Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year – Bob Cook Sales
- Warehouse Distributor of the Year – Turn 14 Distribution
“I’m so honored to be recognized among so many truly outstanding people in our industry, really I just feel incredibly lucky,” White said. “I work in an amazing industry filled with passionate people. I have some outstanding industry friends. And I work daily with amazing people. Above all, I get to carry on the Hellwig tradition that my great grandfather started, and my grandfather and father grew. SEMA does some incredible stuff for their members, and I’m so lucky that I get to be a part of that volunteer network.”
Fedora-wearing, blues-inspired rock-pop artist ZZ Ward provided musical entertainment to those in attendance.
SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting welcomed guests to the industry-wide gathering.
Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a packed house.
SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki addressed this year’s theme, “Success Starts Here.”
Melanie White of Hellwig Suspension Products was honored as the 2018 SEMA Person of the Year.
Jon Pulli, CEO of Turn 14 Distribution, accepted the GEN-III Innovator of the Year Award.
Bob Cook Sales won the Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year award.
Aeromotive Inc. was named Manufacturer of the Year.
Jon Pulli accepted the Warehouse Distributor of the Year award on behalf of Turn 14 Distribution.
Donnie Eatherly, 2018 SEMA Hall of Fame inductee, was recognized for his volunteerism within SEMA and for championing many important industry initiatives.
Ed Pink was inducted into the 2018 SEMA Hall of Fame for building engines that helped legendary racers set records and win championships.
Chris Thomson was inducted into the 2018 SEMA Hall of Fame for his selfless dedication as a mentor and an advocate for the automotive specialty-equipment industry.