SEMA News—August 2019


By Colby Martin

Our Best Allies: Your Customers

In addition to sales opportunities, every customer interaction represents a chance for your company to empower a voter who can help sway vehicle-related legislative measures locally.

It should come as no surprise that new proposals threatening cars and trucks can be of significant concern to automotive enthusiasts, who face the task of customizing and preserving classic cars while staying within evolving legal limits. History has shown that even well-intended bills can have a detrimental effect on the automotive community—but it’s also true that focused constituent awareness can often make a difference.

Our first line of defense against policies that impact enthusiasts comes from SEMA’s government affairs office, which monitors federal and state regulatory activity and through the SEMA Action Network (SAN), helps coordinate awareness at the grassroots level. A recent example pertains to exhaust modifications in the state of California, a birthplace of car culture, where a new state law (A.B. 1824) took effect last year. Signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in June of 2018, A.B. 1824 amended how law enforcement officers treat violations for exhaust noise. Pursuant to the law, a vehicle cited for exhaust noise perceived as excessive no longer receives an order to repair the vehicle. Instead, violations now result in an immediate fine.

SAN, a nationwide partnership of car clubs and industry members, communicated with California enthusiasts to push for a fair solution to the law, advocating for a legislative fix to reinstitute law enforcement’s discretion to issue “fix-it” tickets. Subsequently, California Assembly members Jim Frazier and Tim Grayson introduced legislation (A.B. 390) to repeal the law. At press time, A.B. 390 was awaiting further consideration in the California Assembly, having passed the Transportation Committee without opposition, thanks to a large outpouring of support from enthusiasts who make up SAN membership.

Other examples of regulations impacting car enthusiasts include mandates for ethanol-blended fuel, narrowing of “classic car” designations and the requirement for front license plates, to name just a few.

Effective government happens when energized, motivated citizens take action. Electronic messages, social media and mobile devices have made it easier for voices at the grassroots level to be heard and provide a particularly useful way to gauge public interest on political matters. Notably, bad bills have been killed in multiple states less than 24 hours after objections were raised by resident vehicle owners.

SEMA’s team in Washington, D.C., is focused on protecting the automotive specialty-equipment industry against negative measures, but they can’t do it alone. It takes voters to keep lawmakers in check. SEMA-member companies have enthusiast voters in front of them on a daily basis, so informing customers on issues impacting their vehicles and giving them the chance to speak is vital.

Encourage your customers to stay informed on legislative initiatives at the state and federal levels by visiting There is no cost or obligation to learn how to participate in the legislative process and help shape a bill’s future.

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