By Linda Spencer
The First International Measuring Session/SEMA Garage
Learning About the Market While Building BusinessForty-one SEMA-member companies participated in the first-ever overseas-based SEMA Garage, which featured an all-day measuring session for vehicles popularly customized overseas but not sold in the United States. The event, held at the Custom Show Emirates based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), was part of the four-day 2015 SEMA Middle East Program.
In addition to the measuring session, participating members were able to exhibit in the trade-only SEMA section of the Custom Show Emirates, network with pre-vetted buyers from 10 countries and attend a range of shop tours. It was the first in a series of overseas-based measuring sessions. Future events will be held in China and other markets and are made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The buyers that SEMA vetted for our Abu Dhabi meetings were top-tier businesses that really knew the racing and performance market, which is a lot like ours in the United States,” said Karl Dedolph, director of international sales for Champion Oil. “For example, they have a wide selection of old and new Mustangs, Jeeps, Camaros, Challengers, Corvettes and more, plus older hot rods and customs. The customers are pretty in tune from following American car magazines and attending the SEMA Show. It’s fun when you have discussions about your products with educated enthusiasts.
Companies Exhibiting at the Custom Show Emirates and the SEMA Middle East Business Development Conference
- AC Americas
- Advanced Clutch Technology
- aFe Power ATC Truck Covers
- Baja Designs
- Bolt Locks
- Borla Performance Industries Inc.
- Bushwacker Inc.
- Champion Oil
- Dee Zee Inc.
- Derive Systems
- Diablosport Inc.
- Edelbrock LLC
- Hellwig Products
- Injen Technology
- K&N Engineering
- Keystone Automotive Operations
- Lingenfelter Perf. Engineering
- Magnuson Superchargers
- Matrix Films
- Mustang Dynamometer
- Northstar Battery
- Omix-ADA Inc.
- Petty’s Garage
- Precision Turbo and Engine
- Radflo Suspension Technology
- Rigid Industries LED Lighting
- Rock-Slide Engineering
- ROUSH Performance
- Royal Purple Inc.
- Sondpex Electronics
- Street Legal Products Corp.
- Toytec Lifts
- Warrior Products
- Weld Racing LLC
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“What’s really great about doing these types of shows in a foreign country with SEMA is that you don’t have to have any anxiety about finding new businesses, the hotel, the food, your booth or transportation. They have worked through all the details and timetables, and you can really concentrate on learning the nuances of the culture and that particular automotive market. You can focus on your business and getting things accomplished. Another benefit to going with a group like SEMA is using those businesses that are currently selling in the market as mentors. I learn more every time I go.”
The SEMA Middle East Business Program group visited this impressive, fully equipped shop, which focuses on Mustang upgrades.
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Kathryn Reinhardt, marketing manager for MagnaFlow, traveled with SEMA to the Middle East for the first time.
“The SEMA Middle East trip was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “This trip can open new doors to distributors you never knew existed. It can give you firsthand visibility of the consumer market and see the vehicles in action. It can also give you the confidence you need to export into a part of the world that you may not have thought you could reach. Things to consider include qualified lead opportunities, expenses that can be compared to a jobber show and planting seeds in a new market.”
Attending the event for Magnuson Superchargers were David Gonzalez, international manager of superchargers, and Matt Hately, vice president of marketing and sales.
“The culture in the UAE is very wired and very social-media savvy, and we typically communicate with our dealers through e-mail, WhatsApp and even Instagram,” Hately said. “However, there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face when it comes to doing serious business. This event makes it possible for us to connect with dozens of current and prospective customers in a very short timeframe. Organizing a trip like this to meet that many buyers would take us months to prepare and weeks on the ground. Not only that, but I really didn’t understand the culture and the business environment until I started going on these trips. You get to see the shops, meet the owners, see what kind of work they do and what kind of cars they are working on. Even just touring around the city, you notice what cars are popular and what cars people are modifying. To me there’s no substitute.”
Melanie White, vice president at Hellwig Products, said that one of her concerns prior to the trip was how it would be to do business as a woman in the Middle East.
“I have to tell you, it wasn’t an issue for getting business done,” she said. “There were a few social norms I had to change: I typically reach out to shake a hand, and there was once where a gentleman held his hand back and I caught the cue before I held out my hand. Other than that, it really was like doing business in the United States as a woman. If you have the answers to their questions or can take care of their business needs, being male or female isn’t an issue.
“It was really exciting to actually be there in person to see the vehicles on the road and how the UAE is customizing them. Someone could have told me about the opportunities or shown me pictures, but being there and seeing them in person or talking to the enthusiasts was much more powerful.”
|Featured vehicles at the 2015 SEMA International Measuring Session in Abu Dhabi included:|
- Toyota HiLux 4x4 Double Cab (current model)
- Ford Ranger (diesel) 4x4 Double Cab (current model)
- Ford Ranger 4x4 Double Cab (current model)
- Mitsubishi L200 4x4 Double Cab (current model)
- Toyota Land Cruiser
- Toyota Land Cruiser 70
- Nissan Patrol (current model)
- Nissan Patrol (older version)
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Josh Abbott, international sales manager for Borla Performance Industries, said that the 2015 SEMA Middle-East Conference was a great success for his company and well worth the time and the effort.
“This was our fourth year participating in the event, and the results surpassed our expectations once again,” he said. “We have been doing business in the Middle East for the past 14 or 15 years, and although our brand is very well known and respected in the region, SEMA’s contribution to our success is crucial, and these trips are undeniably beneficial for us. The fact that we are provided with the chance to meet a group of hand-selected, pre-qualified buyers is priceless, and we very much appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this effort of bringing companies and markets together for the greater good of the industry.”
Ian Lehn, president of BOOSTane, attended the event with Anthony Caputo, the company’s director of business development. They found the trip to the Middle East to be much like a previous trip with SEMA to China. It was a fact-finding mission centered around substantiating their hypothesis of what the market would be like.
“At first glance, you see a glamorous car scene with exotics and high-end luxury cars stabled alongside palaces,” Lehn said. “However, once you scratch the surface, you begin to see what looks to be an automotive performance aftermarket in its infancy. No longer is the Middle East a region of collecting exotics and tucking them away; it has become a market that cultivates a climate of customization like in the United States. Except that there it is being taken to the nth degree by wild capital and a mindset of outdoing the next guy, period.”
Caputo said that everyone the group met was excited to be able to work with U.S. companies.
“Being able to come into a historically underserved region should make for some great long-term partnerships and opportunities as the industry continues to grow,” he observed.
Mike Russo, account manager of Diablosport Inc., and Daniel Dolan, sales and marketing manager, said that the company has been doing business in the Middle East region for many years, but mostly through customers requesting products by e-mail or calling in.
“When we decided to take the plunge and visit the Middle East with SEMA last year, it opened our eyes to what the real potential of this market could be,” Dolan said. “Visiting the Middle East in person gave us insight into the difference in business culture, the timing of the business day and, most importantly, direct communications with new customers who were actively looking for parts made for American cars and trucks. Since we began visiting the region with SEMA, we have picked up more than 20 new customers who are doing significant sales volume, most of which represent new business. Our visits have also grown our existing customers by creating closer ties and partnerships. SEMA’s diligent efforts to vet and qualify buyers in the region have made the SEMA Middle East Business Development Conference one of the most lucrative SEMA events in terms of return on investment.”
The accompanying photos include some observations from participating companies. For more information about SEMA’s international programs, contact Linda Spencer at email@example.com or visit www.sema.org/international.
The 2015 program got off to a busy start with a briefing by the U.S. Department of Commerce, followed by a question-and-answer session with some top buyers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Issues discussed included signing exclusive deals and addressing shipment and payment issues as well as top-selling products and best practices regarding payment terms.
David DiMinico, right (black and red shirt), CEO of Matrix Films, and Keith Mansfield (second right), general manager, talk with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Liz Couch (far left) and Wasif Shah Senior Commercial Specialist U.S. Consulate General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (second left), about doing business in the region.
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The group poses for a quick picture outside Top Speed Performance during the day-long shop tour visits.
Buyers traveled to the SEMA event from throughout the Middle East and from as far away as India and Russia. Salih Hamid (far left), export sales manager of Dee Zee, talked to some buyers from India.
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Terry Peddicord (second right), product line director for superchargers at Edelbrock LLC, spoke with an executive of a leading off-road company during the shop tours. The shop tours allowed the attendees to see the differences and similarities of how business is conducted in the region compared to the United States. They also exposed some of the unique challenges that the environment presents to the business owners.
With the assistance of the Middle East distributor of FARO, SEMA had a FaroArm on hand to scan the vehicles to create 3D CAD images. SEMA Vehicle Product Data Specialist Matt Cortado used the FaroArm to capture the dimensions of a diesel Ford Ranger in the SEMA measuring session. Scans of some of the more popular sections of the international measuring session’s featured trucks will be available to members through the SEMA Tech Transfer program.
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The 2015 Custom Show Emirates was the venue for the first overseas international measuring session, providing members with access to vehicles popularly customized overseas but not sold in the United States. Similar events will be held during the SEMA China and SEMA Russia business-development programs and are made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Mike Spagnola (left), SEMA vice president of OEM and product-development programs, illustrated for Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (center) and Sheikh Marwan Bin Rashid Al Mualla (far right) the activities taking place in the SEMA measuring session at the Custom Show Emirates. Spagnola highlighted the 3D images captured by the FaroArm, a cutting-edge tool used to create CAD designs so that member companies may create custom kits and parts to fit the vehicles on display.
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“The SEMA-sponsored trip to the Middle East gave our company a great opportunity to learn more about the demand for performance products in that region,” said Norman Young (right), president and CEO of Weld. “We believe that the time invested with the buyers we met there will help us grow and expand our export business.”
Derive System’s Vice President Justin Oltz (left) and Senior Calibrations Engineer Matt Alderman (second left) provide information on their products which have both gasoline and diesel applications.
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SEMA had a full array of hand tools and two lifts on hand to enable members to take measurements of the hard-to-obtain trucks so popular throughout the rest of the world. “During the measuring session at the UAE event, we were able to determine which of our products will fit some of the popular modified vehicles, such as the HiLux and the Patrol that we don’t have here in North America,” said Lisa Chissus, president and owner of Flex-a-lite.
Joe Krivickas (left), sales manager of Precision Turbo and Engine, attended the Middle East trip with Roger Conley (center, black shirt), the company’s vice president of global operations. Said Krivickas: “While we have always had solid distribution throughout the region, we felt that it was important to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about our current distribution, potential distribution opportunities and the market as a whole.”
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Troy Wirtz, director of aftermarket sales of Dee Zee Inc. (back to camera, left), and Salih Hamid (center) share a laugh with a buyer visiting the company’s booth.
Tim Wheeler (left), vice president of global sales at ROUSH Performance, answered questions posed by pre-vetted buyers to the trade-only SEMA section of the Custom Show Emirates.
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In addition to the measuring session, the four-day program provided a variety of opportunities for networking, including exhibiting in the trade-only SEMA section of the Custom Show Emirates and more informal networking opportunities, such as karting at a nearby world-class karting circuit. The group posed for a quick picture outside Top Speed Performance during the day-long shop tour visits.
David Kass (center), QA1 customer service manager, and Karl Hacken (right), QA1 vice president of engineering, also participated. “The trip was very well planned and executed and included a good balance of experiences that exposed the true size, quality and sales potential of the market,” Hacken said.
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“The buyers that SEMA vetted for our Abu Dhabi meetings were top-tier businesses that really knew the racing and performance market, which is a lot like ours in the U.S.,” said Karl Dedolph (left), director of international sales for Champion Oil. “For example, they have a wide selection of old and new Mustangs, Jeeps, Camaros, Challengers, Corvettes and more, plus older hot rods and customs.”
“No longer is the Middle East a region of collecting exotics and tucking them away,” said Ian Lehn (right), president of Boostane, who attended the event with Anthony Caputo (left), the company’s director of business development. “It has become a market that cultivates a climate of customization like in the United States. Except that there it is being taken to the nth degree by wild capital and a mindset of outdoing the next guy, period.”
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Nick Niakan (back left, black shirt), president and CEO of aFe Power, Dave Simpson (second from right, black shirt), vice president of sales, and Kevin Floody (far right), director of international sales, enjoyed the event. “The Middle East continues to prosper for the automotive industry,” Floody said. “Each year I come, I become more excited about the great opportunities for growth. We are seeing tremendous interest in our products because of their compatibility with the vehicles sold here and the desire to modify them.”
“The SEMA Middle East Business Conference was a perfect opportunity for us as a new entrant to the Middle Eastern market,” said Michael Sampson (left), director of operations and foreign sales for Rock-Slide Engineering. “Attending the SEMA Middle East Business Conference allowed us to find our first customers and begin what should be a long and profitable relationship in the Middle East for Rock-Slide Engineering.”
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“With qualified and motivated buyers, the show was great for us,” said Terry Peddicord (left), product line director superchargers at Edelbrock LLC. “We picked up several promising sales leads at this show and plan to come back next year.”
“The Middle East is a fast-moving market with great opportunity for our industry,” said Ruby Stratz (left), global business development for Keystone Automotive Operations. “Based on my experience, the relationship with our customers is the key to success in this region.”
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Attending the event for Magnuson Superchargers were David Gonzalez (left, back to the camera in plaid shirt) international manager of superchargers, and Matt Hately (second from left in gray and black shirt), vice president of marketing and sales. “The culture in the UAE is very wired and very social-media savvy, and we typically communicate with our dealers through e-mail, WhatsApp and even Instagram,” Hately said. “However, there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face when it comes to doing serious business.”
“We have been doing business in the Middle East for the past 14 or 15 years, and although our brand is very well known and respected in the region, SEMA’s contribution to our success is crucial, and these trips are undeniably beneficial for us,” said Josh Abbott (far left), international sales manager for Borla Performance Industries. “The fact that we are provided with the chance to meet a group of hand-selected, pre-qualified buyers is priceless, and we very much appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this effort of bringing companies and markets together for the greater good of the industry.”
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Erika Garcia (second right), sales manager for BOLT Locks, and Steve Gilles (second left), the company’s director of new business, said that participating at the 2015 SEMA Middle East Business Development Conference was a very good decision for their company. “SEMA did a great job planning the event and made our business experience very pleasant,” Garcia said. “We were able to put our BOLT products in front of very well qualified buyers from seven different countries in the Middle East. We would definitely participate again in 2016!”
“I believe this trip was a great success, and Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT) will expand into this new market as a result,” said Rich Barsamian (left), vice president of sales and marketing for ACT. “There is no substitution that takes the place of being there and seeing the market first hand. I was amazed at how many vehicles in that region fit our import and domestic consumer demographic much like the U.S. market. The biggest difference I saw, was rather than open many accounts, we were encouraged to limit distribution to allow for well-established WDs to fill the pipeline with product in this region.”