Exhibitors Make Game-Changing Connections at the SEMA Show

By SEMA Editors

The SEMA Show is the ultimate automotive marketplace for finding innovative new products, staying atop the latest industry trends and forming long-lasting business partnerships. The 2022 Show drew more than 132,000 attendees, including more than 70,000 buyers and decision makers. Both first-timers and veteran SEMA Show exhibitors should consider participating to introduce their products to an entire global marketplace that consists of automotive professionals from more than 140 countries around the world.

“Exhibiting with us exposes the brand to a global audience,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA vice president of events. “That differentiates us from some of the regional shows around the country. With unmatched media coverage and industry attendance, the SEMA Show has the ability to take new companies and transform their business just by participating in our event.”

The subsequent testimonials shed some light on how exhibiting at the Show changed the trajectory of each of the following businesses in recent years:

Lubrication Specialties Inc. hesitated to exhibit in previous years while its Hot Shot’s Secret brand was growing, so the primary goal in 2021 was to bring awareness to the brand and introduce new customers to its products. They also wanted to reach out to potential new dealers and product distributors.

“We were happy to exceed expectations with a heavily trafficked booth in the Racing & Performance section of the Central Hall and sign up multiple new partners,” said Kyle Fischer, director of branding and promotions, Lubrication Specialties Inc. “In hindsight, we should have started exhibiting at the SEMA Show many years ago. It turned out to be the perfect event to put our brand on the map and proved to be an excellent venue to further push the brand growth and recognition that we have been building upon.”

Headquartered in Calabasas, California, Harbor Freight Tools first exhibited at the 2019 SEMA Show with a 30x40-ft. booth. Last year, the tool manufacturer returned to the 2022 Show with a 30x90-ft. booth—more than double the size.

“We brought a large portion of our store,” said Alon Mahller, Harbor Freight Tools senior product marketing manager. “It gave people an opportunity to get their hands on our tools and to try them. Many people have been hesitant to try or use certain tools from us, and this was a good opportunity for us to put them in their hands and say, ‘Pull the trigger on this product and see how you like it. See how it stands up to the competition.’”

Hinckley Overlanding

Hinckley Overlanding introduced its GOAT trailer at the 2021 SEMA Show. Supplying its products for feature-vehicle builds in different Show locations proved an effective way to lead dealers back to its booth. The company is now growing rapidly.

Exhibiting at the Show pays off for smaller companies, too. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Hinckley Overlanding supplies, installs and designs products for the state’s growing overlanding community.

“We had been to the Show [as attendees], and we knew that it was where we could get in front of buyers,” said Hinckley Overlanding Owner and Operator Matt McIntosh. “We had six individuals staffing our booth, and we were literally buried the whole time. We didn’t really get to see the rest of the Show because our exhibit was so well received. We were just piling into our rooms at the end of the day, and we weren’t going out to dinner. We were all hammered.”

In regards to the entire SEMA Show, McIntosh believes it to be the ideal place to showcase a product while discovering new trends.

“You’re always evolving as a company and as a builder,” he observed. “As things change over the next few years, we’ve got to stay ahead of the times. The Show allows us to go to market with all the other builders that are out there and get ideas on how we can make our product better. And you’re making connections you can’t make any other way. Honestly, we’re in the people business. We just happen to make, build and sell cool stuff. At the end of the day, it’s about the relationships that you build with buyers and customers.”

Bubba Rope

Bubba Rope first came to the 2010 SEMA Show with a simple 10x10-ft. booth and a unique story to tell. The recovery rope won a New Product Award for packaging, and the rest is history. The company used the 2022 Show to debut several new recovery gear sets.

Jim Flowers, president of Florida-based Bubba Rope, attributes much of his company’s growth over the past decade to the SEMA Show—so much so that the Show now figures prominently in Bubba Rope’s annual marketing plan.

During the recession in 2009, Bubba Rope was bringing an unusual product to market: surplus coated helicopter rope re-adapted and packaged as off-road recovery gear. But would the off-roading community embrace it? Someone in the automotive press suggested that Flowers try introducing it at the 2010 SEMA Show.

“It was just incredible,” he said. “The Show was a Mecca of off-road vehicles. It had so much energy with everything that was going on, so we put our 10x10-ft. booth together. People started coming in and filling it on day one. Rather than just hanging a bunch of rope around, we wanted to demonstrate how it worked, so we spent a lot of time in our booth showing people what the rope could do.”

For Jake Merrick Sr., owner of Merrick Tool in Hinton, Oklahoma, the biggest exposure from the Show came from a video shot by Koon Trucking at the Merrick Tool booth. When it appeared on YouTube, it called the CAMLOCK Socket the best product of the 2021 SEMA Show and featured interviews with Jake Merrick Jr., who is a partner in the business and a state senator from Oklahoma, as well as Jake Sr.

“It’s priceless. We could have paid 10 times more, and I’d still go back,” Merrick said. “We went away from there glassy-eyed with our mouths open and dead tired, but we were smiling.”

Horizon Brands in Costa Mesa, California, are industry veterans. They knew that for their spin-off Project X product to grow, they needed to be at the biggest event in automotive performance.

“We ended up leaving the Show with commitments from every person that was on our five-year plan,” said Chavez. “The biggest thing I can tell people going into the SEMA Show is you need to have a plan. If you go into SEMA and think you can stand there and it will sell, it won’t go well.”

CTEK North America is a global leader in vehicle battery care and maintenance, and the company is a long-time participant in the annual SEMA Show. Bobbie DuMelle, executive vice president for CTEK North America, called the SEMA Show “the perfect fit” for CTEK.

“Because SEMA is one of the leading automotive shows on the planet, it also means it’s the biggest market research opportunity we have,” DuMelle said. “Workshop owners, professionals, and builders are all there under one roof, and they’re all there because they enjoy cars.”

The 2023 SEMA Show is scheduled for Tuesday–Friday, October 31–November 3, in Las Vegas. For additional information about exhibiting at the SEMA Show, visit