By Mike Imlay
Preparations for 2022 SEMA Show have entered the home stretch. Taking place November 1–4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the annual event is expected to draw more than 1,800 exhibitors showcasing thousands of new products in a Show space comprising 1 million sq. ft. Add to that an expected attendance figure topping 130,000, and it becomes clear why the Show is literally the world’s premier industry business-to-business event.
The 2022 SEMA Show is shaping up to be 30% larger across the board. More importantly, it will be at the epicenter of tremendous industry change. To understand the explosion of tech and new business opportunities, there’s no better place to be.
Are you ready? With the Show just weeks away, now is the time to put the finishing touches on your game plan. You’ll especially want to take note of numerous exciting developments that SEMA Show organizers have announced in recent weeks. In this article, we spotlight the major highlights, along with an insider perspective on how they can maximize your Show experience.
“This year’s Show is going to be 30% larger, across the board,” said SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. “From vehicles to product introductions, exhibitors, education and demonstrations, there will be more to see and do at this year’s event than ever before. But more importantly, the Show is at the epicenter of the tremendous changes and energy the industry is experiencing right now. We’re going to be the number-one marketplace where innovation, trends and trailblazers meet, and the best place for attendees to see and grasp it all as they position themselves for the future.”
Gattuso observed that due to COVID and other disruptions to the industry, many attendees have not been to a SEMA Show since 2019. In addition, there’s a large contingent of attendees who are new to the industry, making this their first Show. “The industry has undergone a paradigm shift, and this year will be pivotal for Show participants. In some ways, things are starting to normalize. In other ways, there’s an explosion of ideas and a revolution in how word spreads globally to consumer enthusiasts about our industry’s products. Buyers and retailers are becoming increasingly key to that paradigm. Consumers look to them now more than ever for knowledge and information about what’s trending,” he explained.
Which is why SEMA Show planners have introduced numerous events and features to help attendees identify the products, people, trends and best practices that can grow an aftermarket business. “We bake these things into our Show to set a tone and build an environment for success and business growth,” he said. “Of course, it’s up to attendees to leverage them, but when they do, they’ll definitely see a return on their Show investment.”
The SEMA Show App
There’s perhaps no tool more important for getting started than the 2022 SEMA Show App. Available for free download from your mobile device’s native app store, “it’s like your SEMA Show Swiss Army Knife,” said Gattuso. “We like to say it puts the entire SEMA Show in your pocket.”
Upgraded for 2022, the app arms you with detailed exhibitor information, interactive floorplans and up-to-date event and education information—all from the convenience of your mobile device. “This year, the app features a scanning function that allows you to quickly capture product and exhibitor information from feature vehicles displayed throughout the Show. It can also scan and save products from the New Products Showcase and make direct links to the exhibiting companies and their booth locations,” added Gattuso.
Other essential app features include:
- My Schedule Planner: Attendees, media and exhibitors alike can plan and save all of the educational sessions, events and meetings they wish to experience at the Show.
- Maps and Turn-by-Turn Show Navigation: Show connections can be made quickly, along with finding the quickest and easiest routes to get to them.
- Event Listings: Including all celebrity appearances, Show events, educational sessions and speakers.
The 2022 SEMA Show App now interacts seamlessly with the New Products Showcase. You can scan product information directly into your mobile device, build a Show itinerary, and quickly map your route to product exhibitors throughout the Show floor.
The New Products Showcase
If you’re a buyer or media attendee, you’ll want to make the New Products Showcase the first stop when you get to the Show. (If you’re an exhibitor but haven’t yet entered a new or featured product, there’s still time to take advantage of this major Show feature.) It’s the ideal place to spot trends and identify the manufacturers whose products will add the most value to your customers and audience.
In fact, this year the Showcase is on pace to reach approximately 2,500 products, meaning there will be more to see and experience. Plus, for 2022, the New Products Showcase adds two new categories: advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and electrification-related products. “Trying to take everything in on the Show floor without an itinerary can be daunting,” said Gattuso. “The Showcase is a great tool for quickly understanding what’s happening in the marketplace, focusing your efforts throughout Show Week, and finding the products that can grow your business.”
New and Expanded Show Features
In addition to adding the two new product categories to the Showcase, the 2022 SEMA Show is adding or expanding several Show features as well. Among the most noteworthy is the ADAS Showcase, a new demonstration area focused entirely on ADAS and related tools and procedures for calibration.
“This is a great feature because it’s something that the industry needs, but not everyone knows it yet,” said Gattuso. “We’re going to demonstrate to attendees what can happen to a vehicle’s safety-performance features when it’s modified or its geometry is changed by raising or lowering it. The Show section is also designed to educate attendees on calibration procedures and best practices when modifying or repairing customer vehicles.”
The 6,600-sq.-ft. feature area will include a contingent of display vehicles along with a host of ADAS-related products and tools for examination. Throughout Show Week, industry experts will present mock recalibration exercises, guiding attendees step-by-step through the processes required for differing vehicles and modifications. The aim is to raise awareness of ADAS and its impact on the aftermarket while providing marketing and networking opportunities between buyers and sellers.
Meanwhile, several Show features that were added in recent years will grow their footprints for 2022. Among these, SEMA Electrified in the North Hall is especially topical, given the increased emphasis on vehicle electrification sweeping the automotive industry. This year, the section will encompass new OEM EVs, conversion kits and components, testing equipment, safety tools, charging solutions, service equipment, customized wheels and accessories. The section will also include an educational stage and hands-on training and performance demonstrations. “We’ll have experts within each facet of the EV segment on hand to answer questions and talk about future opportunities for the industry and your business,” noted Gattuso.
Expect to see an expanded Overland Experience section in the new LVCC West Hall as well. “The overlanding segment of the industry continues to thrive and evolve, so we’ve tapped the most prominent industry experts and vehicles to showcase the opportunities that exist within that customization space,” explained Gattuso. “It’s a trend we’ve seen grow for the better part of a decade and we want to make sure that our Show attendees stay on the cutting edge of it all.”
To that end, the specialized exhibit will include dozens of customized vehicles tricked out with fully popped-out tents, survival accessories, and portable kitchen, infotainment and power systems provided by an array of exhibitors supporting the market.
Of course, OEM vehicles continue to be the life’s blood of the aftermarket, so the Show’s relationships with major vehicle manufacturers will also evolve for 2022. This year, Toyota and Lexus will double their space over past Shows, while Dodge and Volkswagen have teased some exciting new product announcements and demonstrations for Show attendees.
“New vehicle trends help set the pace for aftermarket innovations, the presence of OEMs has long been a SEMA Show staple,” observed Gattuso. “They’ll be as active as ever with product unveilings and major press conferences. You’ll see exciting vehicle and product debuts and everything in between.”
You’ll see more feature vehicles than ever at this year’s show, allowing you to closely track the latest products and trends sweeping the marketplace. Scannable QR codes affixed to the vehicles give you complete build information and lead you straight to the product suppliers.
Outdoor Activation Areas
The 2022 SEMA Show will see changes outside the convention center too, although at press time the ink had not yet dried on some of the biggest features. While not ready to announce specifics, Gattuso did promise plenty of exciting new outdoor activities.
“This year we’ve taken the opportunity to rethink the live demonstrations and activations that can take place out front and around the LVCC,” he said. “We’re putting the final details on experiences presented by major industry players that will showcase performance products and vehicles in actual use. There will be drifting and other practical-use demonstrations in high-performance settings.”
One outdoor feature he could discuss is the new eBay Motors Experience being planned as an immersive motorsports activation. The feature will include display vehicles, demos, high-performance driving exhibitions, attendee ride-alongs and other compelling fan experiences.
Also, the new OPTIMA Village is slated for the Bronze Lot. It builds on the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Challenge, which the company created in 2008. The Challenge pits the world’s highest-performance street cars and trucks against each other in a variety of competitions. In 2021, competitors did a Peak Performance Challenge segment at the Show. For 2022, OPTIMA will increase the size of its feature and host an additional part of the Ultimate Street Car Invitational. Adding to the tire smoke will be celebrity driver appearances and demonstrations, plus a healthy display of project vehicles.
Likewise, Shell will enhance its Show presence under the Pennzoil name with the Pennzoil “Dare to Perform” Experience. Attendees will be able to get up close and personal with such icons as John Hennessey, Chelsea De Nofa, Rhys Millen and others. The feature will include an interactive booth daring attendees (in Pennzoil’s words) “to experience the performance and technology that will spark your passion for the road ahead.” There will also be prizes and giveaways throughout Show Week.
It’s also worth noting that inside and outside the convention center, the Show’s feature vehicle displays will get some enhancements of their own. The Show has always been renowned for the innovative parts and accessories displayed on vehicle builds representing every industry niche. But the displays are meant to be much more than artistic expressions. They’re designed to connect attendees with the exhibitors and products used in the builds. As alluded to above, all 2022 feature vehicles will now include QR codes capable of scanning via the SEMA Show App. This will allow attendees to quickly capture product and exhibitor information and map a route to their respective booths.
Education is a SEMA Show staple. An expanded 2022 program covers a wide range of topics touching on everything from leadership and best practices seminars to hands-on demonstrations of emerging tech and inspirational speakers.
Headline Personalities and Education
Inspiration and education are major SEMA Show components, with headline personalities and leading subject-matter experts topping the roster of presenters. Here too, the 2022 SEMA Show promises to up its game.
“This year we’ve had more support from notable celebrities with a passion for the automotive lifestyle than ever before,” said Gattuso. “Without sharing too much, I can announce that Kevin Hart’s Muscle Car Crew will play a major role in our programs, along with football Hall of Famer and newly named NASCAR team owner Emmitt Smith, and Bill Carlton of ‘Texas Metal,” to name a few.”
In the area of education, Gattuso said the Show’s seminars and displays will also better reflect industry diversity in every sense of the word.
“We’ll be doing more in the diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] space,” he explained. “For example, we’ll have an educational feature called “Still I Race” devoted to the African American Racers Association and the many contributions it has made to motorsports. We’ll also have seminars on DEI for business. We want to recognize the powerful advances and innovations being made by a highly diverse industry.”
This year’s program is greatly enhanced in other ways as well. There will be 14 different education tracks that attendees can customize based on their personal interests and schedules. The tracks are specifically designed to help participants understand and adapt to the latest industry, market and economic trends.
Notable opportunities include a six-part series delivered by proven Dale Carnegie executive coaches. These 90-min., interactive workshop-style sessions are designed to enhance leadership skills. For marketers, there will be 11 sessions examining the latest digital marketing trends and how to leverage top social-media platforms to drive market share and revenue growth.
In addition, six free sessions on Friday—the Enthusiast Track—will be delivered by industry legends and celebrities who will share insights about the car-building business, how to attract sponsors, and the implications of regulatory activity that can affect business opportunities.
A number of specialized technical sessions are available too, including many aimed at addressing issues faced in today’s collision-repair businesses. Those hosted by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) feature renowned industry experts who will clarify the challenges the repair industry faces and share implementable solutions. And the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) training series includes a MIG-welding classroom and hands-on demos sessions for collision repairers and builders/rebuilders.
For wheel and tire professionals, the Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) educational track focuses on tire and TPMS issues that must be addressed in the shop, plus management issues related to the best practices in operation, marketing and risk management.
In the emerging technology realm, a series of three sessions on ADAS, electric and autonomous vehicles will reveal how leading experts are addressing some of the industry’s top tech challenges, plus techniques that shop owners and technicians can apply.
Also new this year, the SEMA Show 2022 Main Stage Experience features iconic personalities in the automotive industry—car enthusiasts, thought leaders, innovators, entertainers and world-renowned leaders bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to help elevate and inspire new approaches. It’s a segment that promises an unforgettable immersive learning experience.
Awards and events like SEMA Launch Pad keep the excitement running all week long. More than that, they’re designed to connect attendees to the new ideas and real-life products that can immediately grow and future-proof their businesses.
Revamped Industry Awards and Recognitions
It seems no aspect of the 2022 SEMA Show is being ignored. Veteran Show attendees will further notice some big updates to the 2022 SEMA Industry Awards and other recognition programs. “All our awards and recognitions represent an extremely dynamic industry, so as our industry evolves, we’re pleased to evolve with it,” said Gattuso.
For example, with e-commerce expanding and data-driven transactions becoming more routine, the SEMA Warehouse Distributor of the Year award has evolved into the new Channel Partner of the Year award. The award honors the contributions of sales, distributors, retailers and e-commerce channel(s) in the industry as well as distribution companies that support retailers.
In addition, the Channel Partner of the Year award, along with the Manufacturer of the Year award, will be moved for the first time to the SEMA Show Kickoff Breakfast on Tuesday morning, November 1, before the SEMA Show officially opens. Previously known as the New Products Awards Breakfast, the morning event will make it possible for winners to promote their honors throughout Show Week.
Other industry awards, including the SEMA Person of the Year, and GEN-III Innovator of the Year, and a first-ever Influencer of the Year award will be presented at the Thursday-evening SEMA Industry Awards Banquet.
Of course, before Show Week gets fully underway, there’s a Monday Night Reveal and Exhibitor Appreciation Party where the annual SEMA Awards for OEM vehicles take place. Those awards honor the year’s most popular vehicle platforms for customization, as selected by SEMA Show exhibitors. This year, a new EV of the Year award will be added to the mix.
Comprising 1 million sq. ft. of features and exhibits, the SEMA Show floor is where the past, present and future of the automotive aftermarket intersect. It’s the world’s best, single event for capturing the pulse of the industry.
Along with all the changes, it’s good to know that some of the Show’s popular competitions will return for 2022. In the SEMA Launch Pad competition, business people representing new and recently introduced products get to pitch their innovations to a panel of iconic industry judges in a “Shark Tank” atmosphere. The winner receives a prestigious prize package designed to launch their business idea to the next level.
(A corral of the leading contestants and their products will be found in Central Hall booth #22970 throughout Show Week.) The competition’s finale will take place during the Show’s Thursday-night SEMA Industry Awards Banquet.
The annual SEMA Battle of the Builders (BOTB) contest likewise returns to celebrate the accomplishments of SEMA vehicle builders. Designed to spotlight their amazing talents and craftsmanship, the weeklong event allows enthusiasts to learn the stories behind the builds, get to know the builders, and get a first-hand look at new products and trends along the way. From a Top 40 group of finalists at start of Show, the field will be winnowed down to 12, and then four, with the winner announced 4:00 p.m., Friday, November 4, in North Hall booth #10139. The top BOTB builds then lead the SEMA Cruise—Presented by CTEK vehicle parade at close of Show to SEMA Ignited, the official SEMA Show after-party.
A Show With Purpose
“All of our SEMA Show features and events are created with a purpose, and that’s connecting attendees with the exciting change and innovation taking place in our industry,” concluded Gattuso. “I like to see the Show as the place where the entire marketplace comes to life. It’s the place where your business can spark its growth for the next one to three years, if not more. This Show will help set the table for how the industry moves forward probably more than any Show in recent memory. This is where everything happens. It’s where trends are debuted and business relationships are forged. It’s where you need to be.”
Don’t Miss Out!
If you haven’t yet made plans for the 2022 SEMA Show, there’s still time. Go to www.SEMAShow.com for information and registration. You can also download the 2022 SEMA Show App at www.SEMAShow.com/app or via your native app store. Be sure to also check out all the Show events, networking and education opportunities found both through the Show website and app.