SEMA News - January 2010
Optimism and Determination at the 2009 SEMA Show
Sunny skies in Las Vegas mirrored the mood within the Las Vegas Convention Center during the first week of November. The recession was only a secondary topic at the 2009 SEMA Show, and the mood was decidedly upbeat in the crowded aisles, where business executives who were determined to move forward met with attendees who were equally hopeful. A total of 1,745 companies exhibited at the mecca of automotive trade shows, and they were joined by more than 120,000 retailers, warehouse distributors, members of the media and other attendees, with about 24% of the registered buyers coming from outside the United States. SEMA staff and Show organizers offered new programs, enhancements and ongoing floorplan and organizational refinements to produce the best event possible, and the industry responded with gusto.
When exhibitors and buyers registered for the 2009 SEMA Show, they were asked about the products and services pertinent to them. A unique matchmaking tool then paired them according to their stated preferences and e-mailed them a list of contacts that matched their product categories. Thus, buyers and exhibitors arranged appointments long before the SEMA Show even began. In fact, more than 40,000 e-mails were exchanged using the matchmaking tool, ensuring that the participants would have the best possible chance to meet and do business with one another.
New Sections Introduced
Two new exhibitor categories were introduced at the 2009 SEMA Show. Fifty-five companies exhibited in the Paint, Body & Equipment section, and 59 set-up their booths in the new Powersports & Utility Vehicles segment. The additions came in direct response to buyer interests in those categories at previous SEMA Shows. The Paint, Body & Equipment displays were housed in the North Hall, adjacent to the Tools & Equipment and Restyling & Car Care Accessories exhibits for maximum crossover potential. Likewise, the Powersports & Utility Vehicles section was located in the South Hall next to the Trucks, SUVs & Off-Road exhibitors, also providing buyers there with access to related product exhibitors. The two new sections helped make up the more than 461 companies that were exhibiting at the SEMA Show for the first time.
Media Exposure a Bonus for Exhibitors
Both automotive and general-interest media flock to the SEMA Show each year. Upward of 2,000 members of the press descended on Las Vegas to attend more than 40 press conferences, and the Show’s total reach has become even more impressive as social networking gained popularity. Items posted on Twitter about SEMA Show products and vehicles brought the event into the network’s top 10 trends. Media credentials were given to those covering the Show for editorial purposes only, providing exhibitors with added value through publicity for their products in thousands of publications throughout the world. The media’s efforts were aided through services that included complimentary registration; storage lockers in the Media Center (which was open well before and after Show hours); copy and fax services; easy access to exhibitor press materials; free computer access, including high-speed wireless service throughout the facilities; and downloadable high-res photos at www.semaphotos.com.
Online Marketing Conference
SEMA dedicated the day prior to the Show opening to “Online Marketing Conference 2009: Your No-B.S. Day to Mastering Internet Marketing.” It was the first time that the association had ever focused an entire training day at the SEMA Show on a single topic, and the room was packed with more than 240 attendees. Sponsored by eBay Motors and AutoGuide, the program was designed to help companies learn how to profit and promote themselves through the Internet and provide information of immediate value. “Members are increasingly turning to SEMA for guidance and solutions,” said Nathan Ridnouer, SEMA vice president of councils and membership. “Our data tell us that online marketing is of huge importance to our members.” SEMA’s education department will be providing a number of educational offerings throughout 2010 focused specifically in this area.
The 2009 SEMA Show again featured a pair of proving grounds where attendees could test drive a new-car model and learn about the latest vehicle innovations. Participants piloted Ford’s Euro-spec versions of the forthcoming Fiesta on the 51,000-sq.-ft. track at the Motor Trend Proving Ground, which was hosted by the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Simultaneously, the Off-Road Proving Ground sponsored by Toyota featured the latest off-road products and technologies over a course that featured rock-crawling and mudslinging as well as demonstrations of big air by professional race drivers.
SEMA members have consistently ranked research as one of the top benefits of belonging to the association, and who better to learn from than automotive specialty-equipment customers—especially those whose opinions help inform and persuade their friends and associates. The first-ever SEMA Show Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program brought a select group of automotive enthusiasts to Las Vegas, including car collectors, club members, bloggers and enthusiasts who are active in automotive forums and social media, to participate in market research and feedback sessions prior to and during the Show. The participating consumers provided their insights and perspectives on the SEMA Show experience in general along with specific feedback about new products, Show vehicles and industry trends. Exhibitors benefitted from increased viral messaging about Show activities through social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, and the association will use the results from a pre-Show survey, focus groups and onsite feedback to build a market report for SEMA-member companies. For more information about the program, e-mail email@example.com.
Making Green Cool Zone
Green performance was showcased at the 2009 Making Green Cool Zone, as the next generation of musclecars and hot rods equipped with clean diesels, advanced hybrid powertrains, extended-range and pure electric motors shared the stage. “No industry is tied to technology more than the auto industry,” said John Waraniak, SEMA’s vice president of vehicle technology. “This is truly one of the most exciting times to be in the auto industry, and the Green Zone is what SEMA is all about—making vehicles go faster, go farther and, most importantly, making them cooler. The new generation of clean diesels, gasoline direct injection, hybrid and battery electric vehicles are leading the reinvention of the automobile and creating exciting opportunities for SEMA-member companies and bold OEMs. This is a new day and a new game with new rules and new players.” Myriad examples of innovative powertrain technology flourished in the Green Zone, and the world’s first production electric superbike—the Mavizen TTX02—was unveiled at a special press conference. The Green Zone was designed to highlight those companies and enthusiasts whose creativity and innovation in the development, deployment and marketing of green vehicle technologies prove that being environmentally friendly is cool.
The Dealer Day program was created in response to the growing number of auto dealers who are interested in the profits available through accessory sales. Dealer Day’s targeted seminars and workshops allowed participants to hone in on established business models, such as partnering with professional restyling facilities, operating in-house accessory centers and balancing factory versus non-factory accessories. The 2009 Dealer Day was hosted by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA). It included sessions on how to use accessories to reinvigorate sales, stimulate floor traffic and create high-margin profit centers throughout the dealership. One of the highlights was a discussion of “Recession-Busting Strategies to Speed Accessory Sales,” presented by Josh “Chop” Towbin of Towbin Dodge and his special guest, Myles Kovacs of DUB Publishing. Besides being very entertaining, the pair brought real-life examples of how dealers can profit from accessorization.
Green Rods and Solving the Titling Dilemma for Hobbyist Vehicles in California
On Monday evening of Show week, SEMA announced a resolution to the titling of street rods, custom vehicles, kit cars and replicas in cooperation with California agencies that included the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Bureau of Automotive Repair, the Air Resources Board and the attorney general’s office. “This breakthrough procedure allows owners of certain specially constructed vehicles to avoid the pitfalls of a previously muddy process for legally registering and titling such vehicles in California,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA vice president of government affairs. “The program also permits these vehicles to demonstrate state emissions-compliance requirements.” Under a new law, the DMV will grant amnesty from prosecution to the owner of a previously illegally titled vehicle if certain conditions are met, including the owner filing a completed application with the department. First, an owner can pay all back taxes and penalties and apply for one of 500 (per year) smog-check exemptions. Under a second option, owners of specially constructed vehicles can pay all back taxes and penalties and then choose to install one of several OEM engines and related powertrain components. Finally, SEMA configured a kit of emissions-related aftermarket parts that meet California smog-check standards. An owner can pay all back taxes and penalties and install the “retrofit kit.” Major components in the “GreenRod” kit include an aftermarket electronic fuel injection (EFI) system, an EFI controller, exhaust headers, a camshaft, mufflers and catalytic converters. For further details about the program and the “GreenRod Project,” visit the Government Affairs homepage.
SEMA, Chevrolet, eBay and Hurst Performance Vehicles teamed up to auction a pre-production 2010 Hurst Camaro leading into the SEMA Show, with the proceeds going to the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund. The bidding was won by Ernie Feist at $61,900. Featuring choice items that include a Hurst/Magnaflow exhaust, a Hurst/Eibach suspension, T-2 20-inch forged wheels, a Billet/Plus short-throw shifter and a red anodized Hard-Drive billet pistol-grip shift handle, the Camaro is a unique vehicle built for a worthy cause. Signatures from luminaries such as Doc Watson, Linda Vaughn and Hurst executives as well as a personalized “SEMA Special” interior identification badge attest to the rarity of the special car. Feist and his son Ernie Jr. were on hand at the Show to get their first look at the Camaro with Hurst executive and former SEMA Chairman of the Board Nate Shelton.
SEMA Person of the Year
A perennial favorite on the last night of Show week, the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet opened with a stirring video, closed with a top-notch comedian and featured well-deserved awards in between. Source Interlink Media’s Doug Evans, a member of the SEMA Board of Directors and chairman of the SEMA Political Action Committee, was chosen as the association’s Person of the Year. Evans (on the left in photo with banquet entertainer Bill Engvall and fellow Board member Bob Moore) places legislative issues at the forefront of his activism, and he is in a unique position to disseminate SEMA Action Network issues to enthusiasts to get them to respond swiftly and reach out to their local politicians to protect their hobby. Evans has established relationships with various U.S. Senate and House representatives who are friends of the specialty-equipment industry. Created in 1969, the Person of the Year Award recognizes individuals for their distinguished service to the trade association and the specialty-equipment industry.
Other awards presented during the evening included P&E Distributors as the Warehouse Distributor of the Year, Considine Sales & Marketing as the SEMA Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year, and the presentation of the Chairman’s Service Award to Jim Bingham of the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge.