SEMA News—April 2012
By Steve Campbell
Revealing Tradeshow, Marketplace and Membership Statistics
2011 SEMA Show exhibitor participation increased in all 12 Show categories, and the total exhibitor number climbed from 1,934 at the 2010 Show to 2,140 at the 2011 event.
Exhibitors at the 2011 SEMA Show
The 2011 SEMA Show exhibitor statistics provide positive indicators for the automotive specialty-equipment industry, since the number of exhibitors increased in all 12 Show categories. In fact, total exhibitor participation climbed from 1,934 at the 2010 Show to 2,140 at the 2011 event.
The 2011 SEMA Show also saw the largest-ever number of first-time exhibitors, increasing from 549 in 2010 to 613 at the 2011 event. Those positive indicators appear to reinforce the idea that the industry is emerging from the economic downturn. While the expansion was reflected across all segments of the marketplace, the increase in international participation was particularly striking, with about a 25% increase from the previous year.
Buyers at the SEMA Show
Another upbeat sign that the economy might be strengthening is revealed in buyer attendance figures from the 2011 SEMA Show. Retail and installation companies invested in their futures by sending one or more buyers to learn about new products at the Las Vegas venue. For the 2011 event, buyer attendance was the best it’s been since the recession began in 2008. In fact, the 2011 buyer attendance was among the highest ever, topping 60,000 buyers. And about one-quarter of those buyer attendees reported that 2011 was their first SEMA Show. Those first-time buyers were overwhelmingly drawn to see new products, just like veteran attendees.
While buyers came to the 2011 Show primarily to see new products, they also said that they were hoping to get new business ideas and keep up to date on industry trends. More than 90% of them reported success in all three areas, according to a survey conducted at the Show. Over half of them also said that they were interested in expanding their businesses into new areas, either through new products and services that were being introduced at the Show or through existing products that were new only to the buyer’s business.
Most buyers attended the SEMA Show for two to three days and came with an agenda of specific companies to see. Nearly three-quarters of them reported being contacted by exhibitors prior to the Show, and that was often what prompted them to visit specific exhibitors. About half of the buyers reported that they planned to share the information they collected at the SEMA Show with colleagues, customers and other business contacts, so the buyer attendance figures may be only the tip of the iceberg as far as the influence the 2011 SEMA Show will have among professionals in the overall industry.
The 2011 buyer attendance figure was among the highest ever, topping 60,000 buyers for the first time ever.
For the past few years, SEMA has provided buyers with electronic scanners that allow them to acquire information about products they are interested in at the New Products Showcase. Not all buyers use them, but a significant number do, and those scans can be tracked. The 35,000-square-foot Showcase displays included more than 1,800 new products in 17 categories. The top 10 most-scanned products were:
DashCommand from Palmer Performance Engineering (Mobile Electronics Product)
Kiwi OBD2-to-Smartphone Interface from PLX Devices Inc. (Featured Product)
EasyGO Smart Key System from Gryphon Mobile Electronics (Mobile Electronics Product)
Pitstop Furniture from Intro-Tech Automotive Inc. (Performance-Racing Product)
DashCommand from Palmer Performance Engineering (Performance-Racing Product)
EWP Global Double Bank Grill from EWP Global Inc. (Engineered New Product)
Gentex Mirror with Prodigy One Navigation from MITO Corp. (Mobile Electronics Product)
Prodigy One Pro - TCT System from DIRECTUS (Mobile Electronics Product)
BT-431 from Big Time Auto Parts/Austin International Manufacturing Inc. (Exterior Accessory Product)
Carbon Fiber Intake Manifold from OZMO Engineering (Performance-Racing Product)
Interestingly, the DashCommand from Palmer Performance Engineering placed in the top 10 twice, since it was entered in both the Mobile Electronics and Performance-Racing product categories. It was the single most-scanned item of the Show and the most-scanned Mobile Electronics product.
It is also telling that four of the top 10 products were from the Mobile Electronics category, edging out Performance-Racing with three in the top 10. However, the category that claimed the top spot for the most scans overall was Performance-Street, followed by Performance-Racing and Off-Road/4-Wheel Drive.
Performance-Street claimed the top spot for the most interest overall in the New Products Showcase with more than 5,300 scans, followed by Performance-Racing with nearly 4,800 and Off-Road/4-Wheel Drive with just under 4,260 scans.
Engineered: EWP Global Double Bank Grill from EWP Global Double Bank Grill
Exterior Accessory: BT-431 from Big Time Auto Parts/Austin International Manufacturing Inc.
Interior Accessory: Universal 3-Gauge Mounting Solution from Auto Meter Products
Merchandising Display: E-Series D-Series POP Display from Rigid Industries
Mobile Electronics: DashCommand from Palmer Performance Engineering
Off-Road/4-Wheel Drive: Atomic EFI from MSD Ignition
Packaging: TechCare from MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd.
Collision Repair & Refinish: Magic Stapler from Mixplast
Performance-Racing: Pitstop Furniture from Intro-Tech Automotive Inc.
Performance-Street: High-Output Superchargers for Camaro/Corvette/GM Truck/Challenger and Mustang from SLP Performance Parts Inc.
Powersports: Atlantis 3-Watt Single Row LED Light Bar from Lazer Star Lighting Products
Street Rod/Custom Car: MasterShift Push Button Shifter from Mastershift
Tires and Related Products: 3-in-1 TPMS by JOSN Electronic Co. Ltd.
Tools & Equipment: Easypuller from Las Vegas Tool LLC
Van/Pickup/Sport-Utility: EZS7-02 from EZ Connector Inc.
Wheels and Related Products: Rennen R8 Xtreme Concave Step Lip from Donz Wheelz/Rennen International
Featured: Kiwi OBD2-to-Smartphone Interface from PLX Devices Inc.
The F-Series pickup truck was the overall sales leader in the first month of 2012 at 38,493 units, and the F-150 SVT Raptor (shown) garnered the most Spy Photo interest during 2011 in SEMA eNews.
In the first month of 2012, just before we went to press with this issue, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that the new-vehicle market was up in nearly every category, and many of the gains were double-digit percentage increases over the same period in 2011. Leading the way were midsize cars with a 25.9% increase to 228,217 units in January and midsize SUVs with a 24.1% increase to 46,986 units.
Fuel prices have obviously taken a toll in some segments, however. For instance, January sales of large cars—already a small slice of the pie—were down 83.5% to only 1,156 units, and the sales of large SUVs had dropped 7.4% to 14,783 units.
The F-Series pickup truck remained the sales leader overall, increasing 7.5% to 38,493 units, and the Toyota Camry/Solara posted an impressive 55.9% sales increase to 28,295 units, claiming the overall second slot in the marketplace. Rounding out the top 10 were the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, the Nissan Altima, the Honda Civic, the Honda CR-V, the Toyota Corolla/Matrix, the Dodge Ram pickup, the Ford Escape and the Chevrolet Impala.
In terms of market share, GM captured the lead with 18.4%, even though the automotive giant’s percentage had dropped a few points from the same period in 2011. Ford, in second place with 14.9% of the market, actually increased sales by 7.3% over the previous period, and Toyota posted a similar percentage gain to claim a 13.6% third-place market share.
Total light vehicle sales for the 24 selling days in January grew to 913,287 units, which was an 11.4% increase over the previous January’s 819,795 units and was another positive indicator leading into 2012.
Spy Photos From SEMA eNews
The raw sales numbers are a straightforward gauge of what the new-vehicle marketplace is doing, but we can also take a more subjective look at where things might be heading. Each week in SEMA eNews, the association’s electronic newsletter, the team at Brenda Priddy & Co. delivers a few Spy Shots—unauthorized photos of vehicles that are currently under development by the automakers. The interest kindled by these cars and trucks, gauged by the number of times they are viewed by the newsletter’s audience, provides a not-so-subtle indicator of where industry professionals might like to develop products.
In the first month of 2012, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that the new-vehicle market was up in nearly every category.
The second-highest click total also went to a Ford: The Mustang GT500 garnered more than 6,400 views and further cemented the idea that performance is where many SEMA eNews subscribers might be headed. A gander at some of the other most-clicked selections further strengthens that view. Other top car selections were the Chrysler 300 SRT-8 (6,137 clicks), the Corvette C7 (5,546 clicks), the Ford Taurus SHO Interceptor (4,951 clicks) and the BMW M3 (3,825 clicks)—all obvious performance favorites.
The most-clicked SUV was the GMC Terrain Denali (5,817); the Honda Civic Hybrid (3,294 clicks) drew the most views for compact vehicles; and the Cadillac XTS (3,822 clicks) was the most-viewed car in the luxury category.
The most popular seminar topics at the 2011 SEMA Show were those on customer service, sales and online marketing, and the best attended seminar at the Show was “How to Build Synergy Between Your Advertising, Marketing, PR and Social Media.”
The SEMA Technology Transfer program offers another tool for assessing SEMA members’ interest in developing products. More than 300 member companies sought vehicle data through the Tech Transfer program in 2011, sending 2,334 requests for the computer-aided design (CAD) files in the program archives. Of those, suspension files were by far the most requested items, but other areas of interest included body, engine, drivetrain and interior files. As for the top requested group, the LS family of GM engines drew the greatest number of requests.
The program’s directors said that there was a striking surge in requests for data about earlier-generation trucks, such as the 2005 Super Duty and the 2006-2007 Silverado (both 1500 and HD models). As vehicle buyers tended to hold onto their vehicles longer through the recession, some SEMA members might have seen greater demand for their products on those vehicle models and began to revisit their designs.
SEMA also conducts Measuring Sessions periodically throughout the year as the automakers near production of new vehicles. These sessions allow SEMA-member manufacturing companies to use both electronic and traditional measuring tools to check real-world dimensions on near-production prototypes of the new products to ensure that fitment will be correct when the vehicle becomes available at the showroom.
Nine Measuring Sessions were held in 2011, and a total of 82 companies took advantage of the opportunity to take measurements and review fitment details during the sessions. The most attended session was for the Honda Civic, with 47 attendees, followed closely by the Scion iQ, with 42 attendees. The companies that attended included those involved in the manufacture of wheels, brakes, suspension, exterior body components, audio, instrument clusters, seats and engine-bay components.
The fact that the vehicles in the two best-attended sessions were both in the compact car segment may coincide with the increasing interest in those types of cars by fuel-conscious consumers.
There is no surprise about what interests the industry when it comes to marketing programs—the Internet. In fact, the most popular webinar programs supplied by the association are those related to online marketing and social media, and the single most downloaded webinar of all is entitled “9 Killer Facebook Advertising Tips.”
That indicator is backed up by further statistics from the educational programming that was offered at the 2011 SEMA Show. The most popular seminar topics were those on customer service, sales and online marketing, and the best attended seminar at the Show was “How to Build Synergy Between Your Advertising, Marketing, PR and Social Media.”
Each year, the association assesses the needs of its membership, seeking insights into the challenges that companies face and then using that information to help develop appropriate educational offerings. Every session is followed by evaluation requests that are used to tailor future programs. (For those interested in becoming a presenter at a SEMA Show seminar, a speaker submission form is available online at.
New SEMA Members
As the economy picks up, SEMA membership follows suit. The association’s core category remains manufacturing, which makes up 41% of all new members. Next are retail businesses at 34% and then distributors at 9%. A combination of all other categories makes up the remaining new memberships.
Many of the new manufacturing members join the association specifically to obtain the member discount offered on exhibit space at the SEMA Show. For the other categories, networking is most often cited as a reason to join on new-member surveys.
Since the 2008 fiscal year when the recession began, there was a decrease in consultants, Internet-based service providers and truck accessory retailers, but there was growth in street rod builders, restorers, car clubs and other associations. Some in the restoration category began their enterprises as hobbyists but now supplement their income in a small business or by restoring vehicles for resale.
While these indicators are open to interpretation, growth and renewed interest seem to be the clear patterns, and that is good news for all.