SEMA News—April 2018


By Linda Spencer

Getting a Piece of the Global Pie

SEMA Resources to Raise Your Brand’s International Standing

According to the findings of a recent survey of U.S.-based SEMA-member manufacturers, SEMA-member companies are exporting in greater numbers than ever before and are optimistic that those sales will continue to climb in the next three years.

California-based Baja Designs was one of 40
exhibitors at the Custom Show Emirates as part of
the recent SEMA Middle East program. The
program includes exhibiting at the largest show in
the Middle East, visiting shops in the United Arab
Emirates, selling styling and performance products,
and meeting throughout the week with pre-vetted

A full 84% of SEMA-member manufacturers reported that overseas sales contribute to their bottom lines, and 51% take a hands-on approach, with 124 respondents noting that they actively seek overseas business. Another 33% reported that they know their products are reaching overseas enthusiasts, though that is largely through their U.S.-based distribution (i.e., warehouse distributors). The remaining 16% reported that they don’t export abroad and/or aren’t aware if their products are being sold overseas.

SEMA provides a range of programs and resources to assist member companies that are already actively exporting as well as those that have set their sights on increasing their overseas customer bases. What follows is an overview of those member benefits.

This is the first of a two-part series on SEMA international offerings. Vehicle make/model data and programming at the SEMA Show are among the topics covered in the next article.

SEMA Overseas Business-Development Program

Participating in SEMA’s international trips has helped SEMA members open new markets and grow their businesses in existing markets. To date, 200 SEMA members have participated on one or more SEMA overseas business-development trips designed to provide members with a low-cost, high-value way to explore promising overseas markets. Taking part in these programs is an effective way for businesses to test markets, build brand awareness and set up distribution networks.

For those with distributors already in the target country, the trips are an excellent time to gauge how their arrangements are working and let their customers know that you are there to support their efforts to market your products. To date, companies traveling with SEMA are reporting a total of more than $124 million in export sales.

SEMA organizes three annual business-development programs to promising overseas markets. Fees for each trip include hotel, meals, a turnkey booth, exhibition fees and networking events. U.S. government support is available for qualified companies.

The sites for SEMA overseas business development programs are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Sizable population interested in customizing.
  • Discretionary income to afford U.S. specialty-equipment products.
  • Legal/regulatory environment allowing vehicle customization or a local government exploring legalization.
International Vehicles Scans Available to Create Export-Ready Products

In order to provide members with the opportunity to create export-ready products, SEMA has created a program for members to measure vehicles popularly customized overseas but not sold in the United States. Through a special partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the seven-year-old program includes importation of accessory-friendly vehicles into the United States so that SEMA members have access to the hard-to-obtain vehicles in order to create prototypes/products for overseas sales.

SEMA has made available seven international vehicles since the program began in 2012. The vehicles are allowed to remain in the United States for up to three years through U.S. government waiver programs. A ’16 Toyota HiLux and a ’16 Australian-spec Ford Ranger are currently available for SEMA members to measure in order to create export-ready products. Members are invited to measure the vehicles in the SEMA Garage; however, the vehicle can also be transported to the member’s facility, if preferred.

If you have another international vehicle not available in the United States to recommend, contact Linda Spencer at


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