SEMA News—December 2017


By Mike Imlay and Chad Simon

Leaders and Legends

Strategic Planning and Celebration Highlight SEMA’s Annual Installation Gathering

Nearly 500 members of the automotive specialty-equipment industry attended the 2017 SEMA Installation & Gala, themed “Leaders & Legends,” at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center in Pomona, California, July 28. Honoring the industry’s spirit of volunteerism, the Gala capped a series of strategic meetings between SEMA’s Board of Directors and its council and network leadership.

Nearly 500 members of the automotive specialty-equipment industry attended the 2017 SEMA Installation and Gala, themed “Leaders & Legends,” at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center in Pomona, California, July 28, to pay tribute to the specialty-equipment industry’s pioneers and dedicated volunteers. The celebration capped a series of high-level strategic planning meetings of the new SEMA Board of Directors, the SEMA council and network select-committee leadership, and senior association staff.

Jessi Combs and Jarod DeAnda ably served as the evening’s Gala emcees, introducing this year’s SEMA Hall of Fame honorees: GiGi Carleton of the Robert E. Petersen Foundation; Doug Evans of Bonnier Corp.; and Barry Meguiar of Meguiar’s. The festivities also included the traditional Pinewood Drag Races—an annual fundraiser for SEMA Cares charities, including Childhelp and Victory Junction (see p. 36). Amid those and other evening highlights, SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting took the stage to personally recognize the efforts of outgoing Board of Directors officials and welcome the incoming Board.

They included:

  • Wade Kawasaki of Coker Tire, Chairman of the Board (incoming)
  • Tim Martin of K&N Engineering, Chair-Elect (incoming)
  • Nate Shelton of Driven Performance Brands, Immediate Past Chairman/Secretary (outgoing)
  • Doug Evans of Bonnier Corp., Immediate Past Chairman/Secretary (incoming)
  • John Johnson of The Spartan Group, Treasurer (outgoing)
  • Peter Lehman of Granite Creek Capital Partners LLC, Treasurer (incoming)
  • James Lawrence of Power Automedia (incoming)
  • Greg Adler of Transamerican Auto Parts (re-elected)

Recognition and Accolades

“The 2017 Leaders & Legends Installation & Gala followed an exceptional week of strategic planning for our Board of Directors and council and network leadership,” Kersting said. “By every measure, those working sessions were a resounding success, and the Gala was the perfect celebration of the spirit of enthusiasm, service and volunteerism that continue to drive our industry and our association. We thank both our new and outgoing Board of Directors members, along with our council leaders, for their passion and dedication. We also wish to again express our congratulations and appreciation to our Hall of Fame inductees whose many accomplishments have contributed so much to our industry.”

SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting welcomed attendees to the annual Installation & Gala.The Gala was emceed by industry personalities Jessi Combs (left) and Jarod DeAnda.SEMA Cares Chairman Rich Barsamian encouraged guests to sponsor a Pinewood race car to benefit children’s charities. The fundraising is an annual Leadership Days tradition.
SEMA Board of Directors Chairman Wade Kawasaki briefly addressed installation banquet attendees after formally transitioning into his new post at the Gala. For the past two years, he has served on the Board as SEMA’s chairman-elect.Outgoing SEMA Immediate Past Chairman/Secretary Nate Shelton (second from left) was recognized for his service and contributions on the Board, with Doug Evans (right) assuming the duties of immediate past chairman.Kersting, Kawasaki and Evans also welcomed SEMA Board of Directors Chair-Elect Tim Martin (second from left). After the conclusion of his two-year term as chair-elect, Martin will assume the role of Board chairman.
James Lawrence (second from left) was welcomed as a newly elected member of the SEMA Board of Directors.New SEMA Board officer Peter Lehman (second from left) assumes the role of treasurer.The Leaders & Legends Gala also saw the induction of Doug Evans into the SEMA Hall of Fame. His more than 30 years as a senior executive at various media outlets, along with his industry leadership and activism, inspired the recognition.
President of the car-care company founded by his grandfather, Hall of Fame inductee Barry Meguiar has helped to boost and spread American car culture worldwide throughout his career. Today his “Car Crazy TV” show is an enthusiast mainstay.Hall of Fame inductee GiGi Carleton is well known for her years of dedication to the industry and her side-by-side work with Robert Petersen and his wife in building the Petersen Publishing juggernaut. Today, she is the president of the philanthropic foundation bearing Petersen’s name.The traditional Pinewood Races benefitting SEMA Cares and children’s charities ran throughout the afternoon and evening of the Installation & Gala.

Induction into the SEMA Hall of Fame is considered the trade association’s most prestigious honor and is reserved for outstanding individuals within the specialty-equipment industry whose creativity, dignity, integrity, industriousness and accomplishments on a national basis have enhanced the stature of the industry and significantly contributed to its growth. Carleton, Evans and Meguiar were recognized first at a private luncheon and then with formal induction at the evening banquet, where they officially joined the elite circle of pioneers enshrined in the Hall of Fame over the course of SEMA’s 55-year history.

Many in the industry are familiar with Robert E. Petersen, the 1981 SEMA Hall of Fame inductee who was responsible for launching many of the largest and most successful automotive magazine titles, including Motor Trend and Hot Rod. What fewer people realize is that Carleton worked side-by-side with Petersen and his wife for nearly 50 years as the three created the “Petersen empire.” Today, Carleton serves as the president of the Robert E. Petersen Foundation, where she is committed to and responsible for carrying on Petersen’s legacy in the automotive industry through numerous philanthropic programs.

Evans also owns impressive credentials in the specialty-equipment and publishing industries, having spent more than 30 years as a senior executive at various media properties. However, it is his leadership and activism that distinguish him among his many peers. As the now former SEMA Chairman of the Board, Evans has helped guide the association on initiatives focused on youth outreach and legislation. He’s also served as chairman of the Save the Salt Coalition, is an advisor to the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, and volunteers as a judge for the SEMA Launch Pad competition.

For his part, Meguiar is the president of the car-care company founded by his grandfather in 1901. Exhibiting a personal passion for cars, Meguiar grew the company to attract mainstream consumers. Through fun, family-oriented car shows and the launch of “Car Crazy TV,” Meguiar’s signature smile and infectious excitement for vehicles spread across the country, broadening enthusiasm for the hobby. In addition to being one of the earliest exhibitors of the SEMA Show, Meguiar gave viewers a taste of the trade show by filming “Car Crazy TV” from the annual event, interviewing iconic showgoers and spreading the Car Crazy bug throughout the world.

Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning
The SEMA Board of Directors, along with SEMA council and network select-committee leaders, met at the Pomona Sheraton Conference Center for a series of strategic planning sessions leading up to the 2017 SEMA Installation & Gala. The sessions helped set Board and council priorities for the coming year.

If there was a heightened spirit of celebration at the 2017 Installation & Gala, it likely stemmed from a sense of extraordinary accomplishment after the two days of select committee planning that took place before the reception and banquet. In years past, each of the association’s select committees held their long-range planning meetings separate from one another at differing times of the year. SEMA took a more consolidated approach this year, with each group assembling on the same days in the same place to plan for 2018. The time was spent networking, learning about the association, and brainstorming on ways the councils and networks might support SEMA’s strategic initiatives.

“The feedback we received from post-event surveys answered by our volunteers highlighted the meetings as some of the most valuable time spent in Pomona,” said Nathan Ridnouer, SEMA vice president of councils and membership. “The sessions provided good insights into how SEMA functions, and allowed staff to explain the strategy and tactics used in executing association initiatives and programs. Onboarding, education, strategic thinking and networking were all goals we identified, and all were accomplished. A vast majority of the groups walked away from the event with a roadmap for the next year and a few proposals for new programs. We also gained an increase in cross-council collaboration, with groups combining efforts at the SEMA Show and on such topics as advanced vehicle technologies.”

2018 Council Strategic Outlook: Trends and Challenges

SEMA News editors asked SEMA’s council and network leaders to summarize the emerging opportunities and obstacles they identified during their July planning sessions, along with their insights into their respective marketplaces and their goals for 2018 and beyond.

More than a year after its introduction, many council and network chairs continue to view the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act as essential to the continued viability of the automotive aftermarket industry.

Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO)

Erika Wiesman
Chair Erika Wiesman, Hydro-E-Lectric Inc.

We have seen continual growth within the restoration industry. Many of our member companies have opened the market to underserved makes and models to continue growth and provide parts for entry-level cars. Expanding the market will help ensure our future in the restoration aftermarket industry.

The expansion of our youth initiative program is in the forefront right now. Our “Take a Kid to a Car Show” committee is working to ensure that our youth are involved both as hobbyists and as the next generation of restoration businesses. This is what will keep us moving forward.

Data and legislative initiatives are strong suits for ARMO. We are getting information out to our members to keep them up-to-date and informed. The importance of data in the marketplace is being written in an easy-to-digest format called “Digital Matters.” Look for it in SEMA eNews and on the ARMO webpage ( California Prop 65 is ever-changing, and we need to stay on top of this important piece of legislation.

Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN)

Marla Moore
Chair Marla Moore, Coker Tire Co. Inc.

Technology is changing rapidly, and the ETTN is staying at the forefront of what SEMA members need to advance their businesses and stay relevant. Many changes coming in the next few years will present great opportunities in the areas of development, with advancements in rapid prototyping and simulation tools such as such as GT Power and 3-D CFD. Exciting performance developments are producing big gains with direct injection and electronically spooled turbocharging technology.

The great thing about the aftermarket is that if you give us a challenge, we will blow your mind with innovative solutions! Just like in the ’80s when vehicles added fuel injection and electronic-control modules, we adapted and continued to grow with more new products and companies every year. And now, the SEMA Garage offers member companies the resources for product development and testing that were available only to big corporations in the past, so we have an advantage over those pioneers of the ’80s.

We have several programs in place, including our Vehicle Technology Alerts and the ETTN “Design and Validation Research Guide.” Both contain information that impacts the development of our products and businesses, and all SEMA members can find them on the SEMA Garage website ( We also have an expert roundtable event at the PRI Trade Show, and we introduced our TecHub event at SEMA Show, where members learned about future trends and met some of the industry’s power players.

Connectivity, autonomous vehicles and electric cars are all technologies that are rapidly evolving. Thirty-one electric car models are currently being produced. Formula E racing is quickly gaining popularity, with five major manufacturers, and they’re producing real horsepower. Our vehicle technology alerts will help SEMA members understand what’s coming and how to leverage those changes to create new opportunities.

The biggest immediate concern is advanced driver-assist systems, because those systems impact so many products being used today—especially when it comes to safety. That’s why we have formed a cross-council collaborative vehicle tech task force with both the Wheel & Tire Council and the Professional Restylers Organization. Together, we will be able to identify our most pressing concerns and, with SEMA’s help, pursue solutions.

Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA)

Tammy Holland
Chair Tammy Holland, COMP Performance Group

We have started to see more ’70s and ’80s models emerge, and we’re excited about how the hot-rodding market will evolve as the younger generation comes into its own. Vehicle technology is playing a large role in the hot-rod aftermarket. We are seeing increased interest in creating hot rods with all the looks and style of the classics but also the comforts and conveniences to suit the needs and wants of enthusiasts.

HRIA’s David McKelvey of American Autowire is the lead for “Futures in Hot Rodding” and is working with ARMO Chair-Elect Tray Smith and SEMA Board Chair Wade Kawasaki on a program to reach more youth and inform them of all the opportunities within the automotive aftermarket. This program is in line with the SEMA Board’s youth initiative, and we are excited to be able to help make a difference.

HRIA has several open meetings throughout the year, and we are doing everything we can to inform our members of important issues, such as the RPM Act and Prop 65. Those issues directly impact their businesses, and by arming them with this knowledge, we provide them with the opportunity to ask questions and help them prepare for what’s coming down the pipeline.

Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA)

Kathryn Reinhardt
Chair Kathryn Reinhardt, MagnaFlow Exhaust Products

We are excited to see the OEMs come out with new truck platforms, update old ones and expand the lives of others. The truck market isn’t just trucks anymore. We consider the people with Jeeps, ATVs/UTVs, low riders, off-roaders and diesel trucks to be part of the TORA community. The terrains and designs may be different, but the consumer is adventurous, stylish and performance-minded. SEMA does a great job of bringing us all together for regional meet-ups, in social-media outreach, and at the SEMA Show.

We are seeing the Jeep market go crazy over the JK, and we are hoping for the same amount of success with the new JL. TORA wants to get involved more in off-roading, and there is no better way to do it than with our members, their off-road tires, wheels, bumpers, lights, suspensions and exhaust systems. We see a big influx of products getting pumped out of manufacturers and into some of the boutique off-road retail shops.

The TORA select committee is looking for more ways to not only expand membership but also retain members by showcasing valuable council benefits. There are so many opportunities for TORA members to grow their companies through networking events across the country, winning new-product awards, holding exclusive one-on-one meetings with truck media, opening collaboration meetings, compiling vehicle reports for better business decision-making, and gaining prime SEMA Show vehicle placement. We want our members to feel that they are a part of a team that provides support, guidance and camaraderie for success.

TORA is worried about legislative decisions being made about off-road and recreational land usage. We want a place to go to test our products, enjoy trails with family and camp in some of the best spots with friends. Luckily, our friends at SEMA are holding rallies in Washington, D.C., where we can meet with lawmakers and communicate by email with representatives in our districts for big-impact opportunities.

Manufacturers Representative Network (MRN)

Vic Bennett
Chair Vic Bennett, Gantt-Thomas & Associates Inc.

The MRN is working on next-generation legacy initiatives, and we are exploring new opportunities for our manufacturer representative community.

The Rep Match program provides a means for vendors and manufactures to search for and connect with manufactures’ representatives in a specific part of the world. Vendors, manufacturers and manufacturers’ representatives can visit to sign up. The MRN is also working on a continuing education program that will touch on subjects that include technology and data, which speak to our everyday business lives.

School and student engagement is an opportunity where the MRN and local manufacturers’ representatives can connect with the local schools and vocational-technical schools and talk to kids about the different opportunities in our industry. Manufacturers’ representatives work every day with vendor/manufacturers, warehouse distributors, jobbers, retail stores, e-commerce and installers so that when we are speaking to a group of kids, we can have a conversation about the difference facets of business.

Gaining new business opportunities is the key to business. Customers and vendors want to learn how to become more efficient. The initiatives that the MRN is working on will be assets to all manufacturers’ representatives as they work to improve their businesses. We are always looking for fresh ideas to bring to the table.

The RPM Act is a concern for the industry and for customers and enthusiasts around the country. SEMA has done a great job on this bill, but we need to keep pushing it to completion. Additionally, compression in the marketplace with the consolidation of customers and vendor/manufacturers has affected business. For manufacturers’ representatives, it simply means you can either gain or lose a product line.

Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC)

Jason Bruce
Chair Jason Bruce, Holley Performance Products

The MPMC select committee’s primary objectives are to serve our membership through the Media Trade Conference, PRI training seminars, and education opportunities. We are also in the process of updating our “Business Guidelines Manual” and are considering offering it up to all SEMA manufacturers in 2018.

The performance aftermarket is shaping up to produce nice results over the next year. We are living through the golden age of musclecars, with some of the most exciting and powerful domestics ever created igniting consumer enthusiasm. We continue to see strong car counts at races—specifically at the grassroots level, which is the foundation of motorsports. The economy is strong, and we are seeing performance enthusiasts and racers continue to modify and race their vehicles.

Even as there is transition from one style of racing to another, the performance aftermarket is remarkably stable. This shows the obsession that racers have with their vehicles and racing. MPMC members are also equally obsessive with developing racing products that feed that demand. The massive popularity of Drag Week and similar events shows the grassroots power of this marketplace.

One of the biggest strategies our membership should consider is to become more consumer-centric. As the internet and social media allow for quicker, more direct communications streams, manufacturers will need to modify their operations models to handle a wider breadth of demand. That can mean increased sales of B/C/D movers, which will require modifications to their existing inventories and operational metrics. When manufacturers consider consumers first and distribution channels second, they can make great headway in fill rates and consumer satisfaction. Many times, that requires technology investments but makes a great difference in their businesses.

To me, the pink elephant in the room is government overreach. MPMC members continue to support SEMA in its efforts with the RPM Act. That is the primary initiative, and it is going to require all performance aftermarket manufacturers and resellers to support local legislation.

Professional Restylers Organization (PRO)

Ellen McKoy
Chair Ellen McKoy, EMK Marketing

Our industry is dependent upon new-vehicle sales and, to some degree, sales of pre-owned or used vehicles. The sales surge of new vehicles over the past several years—particularly light-duty trucks—has created many opportunities for the restyling segment to upfit many of those vehicles.

Although new-vehicle sales have slowed slightly, the overall outlook is still quite positive. Ironically, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which destroyed tens of thousands of vehicles, are predicted to spark a surge in vehicle sales over the next several months. In some regions, that may translate into restyling opportunities.

PRO has always focused on projects and activities that can provide meaningful value to our members and the restyling community. For example, the council introduced the “PRO Sales Training Manual: A Restyler’s Guide to Selling Dealer-Direct” several years ago, and it was recently updated. The guidebook is a primer on effective ways to market products and services to car dealerships.

PRO recently embarked on developing an automotive aftermarket sales professional certificate program, which will include a test based on the contents of the sales manual. We are currently completing the test-development process and plan to announce our progress during the SEMA Show. PRO has also zeroed in on emerging and evolving vehicle technologies. Given the rapid pace at which vehicle technology is changing, it’s critical for our members to be aware of what’s already happening and what’s coming down the pike. To help spread the word, PRO has hosted seminars on this topic.

SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN)

Camee Edelbrock
Chair Camee Edelbrock, Camee Edelbrock Communications LLC

The number of women involved in motorsports grows with every race season. There are more female drivers and crew members than ever before in all levels of racing, from the pro categories to sportsman-level classes. They are successful and confident, which will only cause this trend to continue in the years ahead.

Marketing is going mega-multi-channel with a huge number of options to reach consumers. Those options include the constantly changing world of social media, branded entertainment, mobile advertising, and gaming. Not only are the channels of communication growing, but also opportunities within each channel are expanding like crazy.

TV content now comes from companies such as Amazon and Hulu, which cater to cable “cord cutters.” Breaking news is being obtained through Twitter, and smartphones are becoming the primary screens for Millennials. Advertisers and marketers must understand the multitude of communication channels today so they can maximize their ad spends and reach every potential customer.

The challenge in marketing today is keeping up with rapidly changing distribution channels for advertising and promotional messages. Marketers need to have their proverbial finger on the pulse at all times.

To improve business operations, be honest, responsive and transparent with your employees and customers. Treat your employees like the most important tools in your company, and ensure that your marketing strategies are on point with today’s changing media landscape. Support SEMA initiatives such as educating the youth about our amazing industry. Teach your kids to drive a manual transmission, and help them understand how cool it is to build their own project car!

Wheel & Tire Council (WTC)

Greg Parker
Chair Greg Parker, Wegmann Automotive USA

The WTC’s focus is to develop ride guides for multiple platforms (passenger and truck applications) and a wheel-care instruction pamphlet. We are currently updating our North American aftermarket industry testing standards (J2530) for wheels. An updated version of the standard has been consolidated and supplied to the Society of Automotive Engineers for review. We are also updating the General Aftermarket Wheel Installation Guide. The existing guide includes techniques for proper test fitment of the tire and wheel package, proper torque range and sequence for lug/stud tightening, and wheel lug seat identification. Topics for the new proposed guide may include TPMS installation and care, and suggestions for integrating the new assembly/updated components with the vehicle computer system.

We are also discussing potential future projects, which include better understanding future OEM vehicle technology as it relates to the integration of aftermarket wheel, tire and related components, and the impact aftermarket components may have on electronic stability control, lane-departure warnings and vehicle automation.

Young Executives Network (YEN)

Rory Connell
Chair Rory Connell, Advanced Accessory Concepts

The YEN select committee is currently working on how we can better engage our general membership, with the goal of no longer leaving members wondering what YEN is outside of a certificate and a reception at the SEMA Show.

YEN is unique, as we represent everyone under the age of 40 across all market segments. In looking at this year’s SEMA Launch Pad contestants, one could get a pretty good idea of where the market is going. Over the past few years, we have seen many social-media and business-management software platforms emerge. This year’s competition is hard-parts-product heavy compared to previous years with digital products. However, all of those products are heavily focused on new technologies and applications, which I think is something we will continue to see. Whether it’s a digital or physical product, I would not expect to see many new versions of products that already exist in the marketplace but rather more new market segments as manufacturers adapt to the modern car.

Data is the current market trend, whether it’s product data delivered to resellers or real metrics coming from newer marketing and sales channels (social media, YouTube, Google, etc.). Our membership comprises people who have done business in a digital world their whole careers, most of whom work with products and content they know is efficient rather than previous dated methods that still work to some degree but don’t come with as much data. For instance, this article will be printed in a magazine that I have no idea how many people will read. On a digital platform, I can get this data and mold it to my business needs, as I can get a wider demographic. While each has its own merits, I personally am going to gravitate toward numbers I can work with.

The biggest challenge for younger people in the industry is getting over the hump in the next few years as archaic forms of business practices fade away with the graying of the industry. As an industry in general, the challenge will be retaining and recruiting new talent as some of the traditional forms of business aren’t necessarily as appealing, and we could lose those people to other industries.

My biggest suggestion to improving business is to adapt to and invest in new technologies. If you’re in this industry or any other one that revolves around buying, selling or marketing and you don’t have a social-media account that you use regularly, then you should either look at an exit plan or have the foresight to hire someone who does so you’re keeping up with the times.

The SEMA Cares Pinewood Drag Races

The Pinewood Drag Races benefitting SEMA Cares charities, including Childhelp and Victory Junction, have become a mainstay of the annual leadership events, culminating in the SEMA Leaders & Legends Installation & Gala. In addition to the Stock, Build-It-For-Me (BIFM) and Unlimited classes, the 2017 races included the Council Cup and Industry Cup Challenge. Children living at the Childhelp facilities and Victory Junction campers built the vehicles for the BIFM class, and donors sponsored their race cars for $95.

Council Cup

1st Place: SBN
2nd Place: YEN
3rd Place: MPMC

Build-It-For-Me Class (Cars and Trucks Built by Kids)

1st Place: WeatherTech
2nd Place: Truckin’ America
3rd Place: Holmes Enterprises

Stock Class

1st Place: Keystone Automotive Operations
2nd Place: Bodyguard Truck Accessories
3rd Place: Manke Trucking

Unlimited Class

1st Place: Dave Williams, Go Rhino Products
2nd Place: Ian Lehn, BOOSTane
3rd Place: Jessi Combs, RAD

Industry Cup Challenge (Member Category Represented)

1st Place: Allied Exhaust (WD), 2.462 sec.
2nd Place: LGE-CTS (Service), 2.466 sec.
3rd Place: RTM (Media), 2.474 sec.
4th Place: Mothers (Manufacturer), 2.482 sec.
5th Place: Bob Cook Sales (Manufacturers’ Reps), 2.484 sec.

While the 2017 racing is over, it’s not too late to make a direct donation to Childhelp and Victory Junction via SEMA Cares (

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