SEMA News—January 2020


2019 SEMA Show Highlights

How Did You SEMA?

By John Stewart

As the world’s premier automotive trade show, the SEMA Show reflects the $44 billion automotive aftermarket, bringing together every segment of the industry—from hot rods to mobile electronics and collision repair. And if this year’s Show is any indication, the industry is alive, well and poised for another great year.

Even though final numbers were yet to be tallied as this issue’s deadline approached, indications that the 2019 Show delivered value were apparent. Overall participation continued to increase, as the number of exhibiting companies grew by nearly 3%.

As in recent years, the industry made use of every available space in the Las Vegas Convention Center and its adjacent lots. Buyer attendance was strong, and total attendance (estimated one week after Show close) was in the range of 162,000 people. Sponsorship demand increased significantly as exhibitors sought to promote their presence, and attendance at industry events such as the annual Industry Awards Banquet was up considerably compared to 2018.

Show attendees took advantage of educational opportunities in record numbers, as seminar attendance was up 20% over 2018. For the first time, educational events took place on the Show floor. Some of the new Show-floor educational content, such as that hosted by Myles Kovacs from DUB magazine, which took place in Lower South Hall, was released in the weeks following the Show.

The SEMA Show is open to only industry professionals, but the SEMA Ignited after-party event is open to the public and attracted more than 20,000 enthusiastic consumers, who came to take in the steady stream of custom creations and take part in the filming of the one-hour “SEMA: Battle of the Builders” TV special that is scheduled to debut on A+E Networks’ FYI and History’s Drive block in 2020. Visit for information about show dates and times.

The accompanying photos and captions highlight just a few of the moments that made the 2019 SEMA Show memorable. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the newly revised website has already taken hundreds of orders for the 2020 Show, to be held November 3­–6, in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Breaking News: More than 3,000 well-connected members of the media attend the SEMA Show each year, creating an opportunity for exhibitors to showcase creations that might just become the next viral sensation. Media attendees feasted on the opportunity to identify emerging trends and interview industry leaders and innovators. The SEMA Monday Night Reveal event was just one of dozens of media events in which exhibitors uncorked exciting new cars, products and concepts—in this case, GM’s all-new, mid-engine ’20 Stingray convertible.
Go-Time for Buyers: More than 70,000 buyers from more than 140 countries attended the 2019 SEMA Show, searching for new products and new vendors. Others came for deals and discounts and to keep up on trends. Repeat attendees took time to renew friendships and visit with key suppliers. All were assisted this year by a newly upgraded SEMA Show app that improved navigation and supplied information. One thing was clear: If you’re in the automotive specialty parts business, the SEMA Show was the place to be in November.
New Products
New-Product Blizzard: More than 3,000 products were entered into the New Products Showcase this year, each seeking recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Veteran teams of judges tackled the daunting job of identifying the top entries in 16 categories, looking for quality, craftsmanship, technical achievement and consumer appeal. This year, the SEMA Show app helped make connections, enabling buyers to use their smartphones to download photos and information about the products they were interested in and directing them to exhibitor booths.
Making the Old New Again: “Restored” is not exactly the right word to describe Jay Leno’s ’66 Bronco, unveiled Tuesday morning before a crowd of hundreds of attendees. It may look like an original classic, but under the sheetmetal, a powerful Ford EcoBoost engine and long-travel suspension equip this early Bronco with the legs to power up the face of the tallest dune. It’s all part of the industry’s obsession to make the old new again—but better than it ever was.
Overland Experience
Gaining Insight: Innovative delivery of educational topics made a difference this year, when seminars made their way to sites on the Show floor for the first time. Education was a key feature of the new Overland Experience display in the Performance Pavilion. Overall seminar attendance grew by more than 20% as attendees packed 140 sessions on a variety of topics, allowing thousands to leave Las Vegas with sharper skills, boosted knowledge and greater awareness of best practices for their businesses.
The Place to Do Business: At the SEMA Show, more than 2,300 exhibitors invest each year in the opportunity to display their newest products, leveraging the opportunity to meet with hundreds of customers in one short week and explore crossover business opportunities in an automotive melting pot encompassing 12 separate categories. The most successful exhibitors attract buyers with well-designed product displays, smartly targeted marketing, and salespeople who know their product lines inside and out. Day by day, one conversation at a time, sales leads accumulated to provide a pathway to a successful 2020.
Expect the Unexpected: Veteran attendees of the SEMA Show know that it’s best to arrive at the event with a solid plan to make the most of every hour of their time in the exhibit halls. But smart attendees also know to build free time into the plan to explore, to experience new things and to discover, because no matter how many times you have been to the SEMA Show, there is always something unexpected waiting to present itself.
Honoring Creativity: At the first SEMA Show, there was just one car on display. At this year’s Show, there were 1,500—nearly 300 of which qualified for the sixth annual Battle of the Builders competition. Elite builders as well as new customizers used cars as canvases to display their talent, creativity and craftsmanship. This year, a conspicuous contingent of young builders jumped in to contend for their share of fame. In the end, the top builder prize went to Mike and Jim Ring for their stunning ’69 Camaro, but it’s clear that the next generation—rich in talent and inspiration—will be heard in years to come. 

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