SEMA News—January 2012

By Mike Imlay

The Best of the 2011 SEMA Show

In every measurable way, the 2011 SEMA Show reached new heights. Industry professionals gathered by the tens of thousands November 1–4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, eager to do business in a specialty-equipment market that is clearly looking up after several years of downbeat economic news. From the Show’s educational conferences to its special events and the activity on the Show floor itself, the energy and enthusiasm were palpable and inescapable.

“Buyers and exhibitors, project and Show vehicles, companies introducing new products, special-event attendance, media exposure—across the board, our numbers were up,” said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of communications and events.

“However, while we are obviously pleased that the SEMA Show continues to grow, we are even more pleased with the positive results that the 2011 Show produced for our attendees. Based on what we saw and heard from both buyers and exhibitors, the 2011 SEMA Show was most successful at helping participants connect with others in the industry, discover new products and capitalize on new business opportunities.”

With more than 2,000 exhibitors displaying for 2011, the SEMA Show is the largest annual small-business gathering in the United States. While forging new partnerships, the exhibitors, buyers and other industry representatives learned, experienced, explored and celebrated the latest trends that continue to bring new ideas to life in the automotive aftermarket.

For them, the Show highlighted the vision and breadth of an increasingly optimistic marketplace and provided an insider’s look at the hottest cars and products currently exciting the industry and consumers alike.

“This is an industry experiencing momentum, and that fact was evident everywhere you looked at the Show,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “If there’s one thing to be learned from the 2011 SEMA Show, it’s that the specialty-equipment market remains a vibrant arena for business, powered by ideas and a special breed of entrepreneurs determined to push the envelope. We’re proud to be a venue that advances their success.”


And the momentum isn’t slowing. Even as buyers and exhibitors follow up on the leads they gathered at the 2011 Show, plans to build on its success are already underway for the 2012 SEMA Show, to be held October 30–November 2. For an even more detailed review of the excitement (and to get complete information for 2012), be sure to visit



Mopar Service, Parts & Customer Care President and CEO Pietro Gorlier (left) and Pro Stock racer Jeg Coughlin Jr. announce the latter’s addition to the Mopar racing team by unveiling his new Dodge Avenger race car. The media event underscored the SEMA Show’s ties to the emotional drive that unites OEMs, the racing industry and the performance aftermarket. That theme was repeated many times over, such as on the Las Vegas Convention Center’s west side, where Ford Out Front returned with its crowd-pleasing, rubber-burning vehicle demonstrations. On top of that, 600 first-time exhibitors displayed at the Show, pushing total exhibitor numbers to an all-time high. Covering and communicating all that passion to the outside world were more than 3,500 credentialed media professionals representing virtually every part of the globe.




Named the 2011 SEMA Show’s Hottest Car, the latest iteration of the Chevrolet Camaro has also been added to Mattel’s HotWheels pantheon—a fact celebrated by this creative Chevy booth display. As in years past, nearly 2,000 cars were exhibited at the Show, no two exactly alike, each an original blend of the vision and personal priorities of its owner. Standing squarely at the intersection of art and science, the SEMA Show is a venue for astonishing engineering and an outlet for some of the world’s best designers and stylists. Moreover, OEMs and other major manufacturers choose the Show as a favored venue for unveiling their latest innovations and technologies. First-hand glimpses at these important new trends keep attendees on the cutting edge of a wildly creative, forward-thinking industry.




The 2011 SEMA Show featured a number of lively panel discussions at the Vehicle Technology Center (VTC) focusing on a variety of technological topics with 55 distinguished speakers over four days. Popular as it was, however, the VTC formed just one part of a broad curriculum of educational programs available at the Show. Thanks to its expertly presented seminars and conferences, the annual SEMA Show remains one of the industry’s top learning experiences, helping to keep the aftermarket fresh, relevant and vibrant. As educator Timothy Nash pointed out in his Education Days keynote address, “The SEMA side of the automotive market truly is the center for innovation and invention.... This is the most entrepreneurial segment, and you are the people who have lived, and made, the American Dream.”




The annual SEMA Show is all about business, but there is a lot of fun to be had from simply exploring the aisles and booths to see the amazing products, vehicles and displays that grace the Show floor. And it’s not just fun—this is also the only venue where custom wheel manufacturers can cross categories to interact with tire installation specialists, and collision-repair and refinish specialists can engage custom builders to learn about exotic paint opportunities on a gigantic scale. First held under Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium grandstands in 1967, the SEMA Show has grown to attract more than 130,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, ranking it among the largest trade shows of its kind anywhere in the world. The cross-pollination that occurs with exploration often leads to unexpected new ideas, exciting new opportunities and highly successful business relationships. In the end, attendees never know where a stroll down a SEMA aisle may take them.


Leadership…and Courage 


In a moment symbolic of what it will take to succeed in the future, SEMA Chairman of the Board Paul “Scooter” Brothers (left) pitched the evening’s prepared script high into the air at the 2011 SEMA Show’s Industry Banquet, Thursday, November 3. SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting joined Brothers in emphasizing the need to throw away the playbook and find the courage to explore new opportunities. In today’s challenging climate, leadership demands flexibility—and oftentimes the courage to experiment, change direction, risk it all and fly by the seat of one’s pants. These qualities have long been a hallmark of the industry’s greatest entrepreneurs, whose unscripted ideas were alive and on display throughout the four-day Show. “We’re excited about all the options the future holds for anyone willing to innovate,” concluded Brothers.




Passing the torch to a new generation is a continuous process that pays off in personal satisfaction. Today’s SEMA members mostly made it on their own, coming up the hard way, navigating a jagged path largely dictated by their own intuition. Tomorrow’s designers, technicians and engineers will face even more difficult challenges. But look around and you’ll see proof that the younger generation is smart, talented and bound for success. Through mentoring programs and contests, such as the industry-supported Hot Rodders of Tomorrow, SEMA helps to foster a culture that inspires future industry superstars. The practice of modeling paths to success and turning enthusiasm into knowledge is on display for just one week at the Show, but it goes on 365 days a year.




Networking. Collaboration. Negotiations. Partnerships. Attendees universally agreed that the 2011 SEMA Show delivered an unprecedented level of quality business connections. Far and away the industry’s leading trade-only event, the annual SEMA Show continues to attract thousands of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, builders, reps, publishers, restylers, racers and marketing and PR professionals from throughout the world. All came intent on conducting business, gathering leads and forging promising new relationships. While the Show is the best-known benefit of membership, SEMA also delivers continued services to members throughout the year, ranging from education to research to legislative advocacy and more. To connect with these benefits, visit




Forward momentum was tangible not only on the Show floor, but also in the Show’s myriad exhibits, features and events—some familiar and some all-new. Counting outside demonstration and exhibit space, the 2011 SEMA Show occupied nearly 3 million sq. ft. at the Las Vegas Convention center, every foot packed with electric energy. Booth traffic bustled while the awards ceremonies, breakfasts, annual Show banquet and other celebrations brimmed with enthusiastic participants. And when the Show ultimately drew to a close, the newly inaugurated SEMA Cruise provided a way for the outside world to experience the magic, as enthusiasts lined the streets to help celebrate another successful Show.


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