SEMA News—March 2020


By Douglas McColloch

Bill SimpsonBill Simpson was an accomplished racer, finishing 13th at the 1974 Indy 500.

Motorsports Safety Pioneer Bill Simpson Passes Away

Bill Simpson, 79, motorsports safety pioneer, died December 16, 2019, after suffering a stroke. A class of 1988 SEMA Hall of Fame member and a 2003 Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, Simpson drove dragsters and Indy cars, finishing 13th in the 1974 Indianapolis 500. After ending his career as a driver, he started Simpson Safety Products in his garage, and it grew into a business empire and helped reduce the fatality rate in all forms of racing.

Simpson started drag racing in the late ’50s and broke both arms in an accident when he was 18 years old. That led to his initial safety idea of mounting a parachute behind race cars to slow them down, an innovation that was adopted by the NHRA.

His big breakthrough came in the ’60s, when astronaut Pete Conrad introduced him to a fire-retardant material called Nomex. At the time, IndyCar, NASCAR and F1 drivers routinely lost their lives to fire because they either drove in a T-shirt or a uniform that provided minimal protection. Simpson began producing Nomex suits and, by 1967, 30 of the 33 starters at Indy were wearing them. From suits, Simpson branched out into gloves, shoes, seatbelts and helmets, and Simpson Safety Products were used worldwide.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced recently that a celebration of Simpson’s life is being planned for May 2020 at the IMS Museum.

The Nordic region has long been a hotbed of drag racing, rally racing and drifting. The inaugural SEMA Nordic Business Development Program takes place August 29–September 2, 2020.

Registration Now Open for Inaugural SEMA Nordic Business Development Program

Join SEMA for the inaugural SEMA Nordic Business Development Program, to be held August 29–September 2, 2020, in Stockholm, Sweden. Participants will learn the potential for their products in this performance and classic-car paradise.

They will meet with top trade buyers who have enabled the half-century-old craze in Sweden and the surrounding countries of Norway, Finland and Denmark to restore and upgrade American classic cars. Performance is among the top upgrades sought for a range of vehicles, and the region is considered the headquarters for the European drag-racing championship as well as circuit racing, drag racing, rally racing and drifting. High disposable income coupled with a passion for personalization make this an attractive region for manufacturers.

SEMA Business Development Programs are low-cost, turnkey events that bring together SEMA-member manufacturers and buyers from key markets. Fees start at $4,150 per company, and for those who qualify, $750 in U.S. government grants help defray trip costs, including hotels, a tabletop display, meals and networking events. Flights are not included. Additional state funds are available, including $1,000 for qualified California-based companies.

For additional information, visit SEMA eNews for details or contact Linda Spencer at

Retail Landscape
According to the latest “SEMA Retail Landscape Report,” 79% of specialty-automotive retailers expect online sales growth to have a significant impact on the industry over the next few years.

SEMA Market Research: Retailers Adapt to a Changing Landscape

Last year, nearly one-third of specialty-automotive parts sales were made online, and 79% of specialty-automotive retailers expect online sales growth to have a significant impact on the industry over the next few years. Changing consumer behavior is driving this growth. Customers now have more outlets than ever before to research specs, compare brands and purchase products.

As a result, many retailers are adapting to a customer base that is more informed about brands and products, more aware of price differences, and may be less loyal to any retailer. Nearly two-thirds of retailers have added or grown their social-media presence to reach more customers effectively. And 59% find that providing advice and expertise rather than competing on price offers a way to stand out in the market.

To learn more about the key challenges and opportunities specialty-automotive retailers are facing, download the latest “SEMA Retail Landscape Report” for free at

SEMA School Program in Need of Industry-Branded Stickers

The SEMA CuSTEM Car Experience, which engages middle-school students by blending science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education with automotive customization, will kick off another season this year. The events, held in partnership with Championship Auto Shows, will take place in six different cities during the spring semester. Each event will bring in 450–500 students to experience a car show and design challenge to build their own custom car models.

SEMA is providing aluminum water bottles to each student and a sticker bar to customize their bottles. Aftermarket companies are invited to send stickers with their logos so the students can use them to customize their bottles. The students will walk away from the day with a fun and engaging automotive experience and a car-culture-branded giveaway.

Stickers can be sent to SEMA c/o Katie Hurst, 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765. Suggested amount is 300–500 (or more) stickers. For more information, email

Sales Tax
SEMA has compiled resources for member companies that are impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court Wayfair decision.

SEMA Creates State Sales Tax Page to Answer Questions and Provide Resources

Many SEMA-member manufacturers, distributors and retailers have been impacted by the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Wayfair decision, which allows states to require sales tax collections based solely on the volume of sales into that state (economic nexus). The Court overturned its 1992 Quill decision, which previously required a company to have a physical presence before it could be compelled to collect sales tax. SEMA has compiled resources to help companies understand whether Wayfair impacts their businesses and provide additional information to help them respond if necessary.

For more information, visit


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