SEMA News—March 2021


Industry Indicators
While spikes in COVID-19 infections in late 2020
increased the odds of another economic downturn, the
U.S. automotive sector remained relatively robust,
according to the latest issue of “SEMA Industry

SEMA Industry Indicators: Despite Economic Headwinds, U.S. Automotive Sector Remains Relatively Strong

The U.S. economy continues to recover but, as noted last month, growth is moderating, according to the latest “SEMA Industry Indicators” report. In Europe, where fiscal stimulus was smaller than in the United States, rising COVID-19 cases drove a fresh series of national lockdowns in late 2020. The economy there was likely to see another contraction in the fourth quarter, indicating the start of a double-dip recession. The probability of a double-dip recession in the United States has inched higher and was probably around 25% as of press time.

Even with those headwinds, the automotive industry continues to do relatively well. Production slowed somewhat in September but remained above September 2019 levels. Likewise, sales of new vehicles during the month of October were down slightly from the prior month, but spending on vehicles continued to be strong. In fact, consumer spending on vehicles and parts hit an all-time high in October.

Much of this strength in spending on vehicles reflects increased levels of consumer spending on used cars. Incoming data does suggest that the used-car market is showing some signs of weakness, while the new-car market is gaining some momentum. Spending on motor-vehicle parts and accessories has also been strong, growing 8.4% over last year.

SEMA’s monthly “SEMA Industry Indicators” report is available free of charge for members to download. Visit to view the report.

John Gaines
Inducted last year into the SEMA Hall of
Fame, John Gaines and his company,
G&M Performance Parts, streamlined the
parts distribution process from
manufacturer to retailer.

SEMA Hall of Fame Member John Gaines Passes Away

John Gaines, a member of the SEMA Hall of Fame Class of 2020, passed away at his home surrounded by family on January 3, 2021.

Gaines was an early pioneer in automotive aftermarket warehouse distribution. His company, G&M Performance Parts, was one of the first of its kind in the automotive aftermarket.

Gaines’ distributorship was one of the first in the country to utilize a fleet of vehicles to distribute products directly to local speed shops, truck accessory stores, car dealerships and machine shops, creating a much quicker and more streamlined process from manufacturer to end user. Gaines is credited with forward thinking early on that helped many manufacturers grow to where they are today.

Prior to his career in distribution, Gaines enjoyed success as a racer, piloting Top Fuel dragsters. He opened a speed shop, Automotive Specialties, in Cottage City, Maryland, which led him eventually into the distribution side of the industry.

Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of press time.

SEMA scholarships are available to students pursuing degrees or
certifications that lead to careers in the automotive industry.

SEMA Accepting Scholarship and Loan Forgiveness Applications

SEMA is accepting applications for the 2021 SEMA Memorial Scholarship and Loan Forgiveness programs. Scholarships are available to students pursuing degrees or certifications that lead to careers in the automotive industry, and loan forgiveness is available to employees of SEMA-member companies.

“It’s no secret that this past year has had its challenges,” said SEMA Senior Manager of Professional Development Gary Vigil. “Now more than ever, SEMA is available to help support future industry innovators by providing financial assistance to current students and recent graduates who have outstanding student debt.

“There are thousands of talented, hard-working individuals seeking careers in the automotive aftermarket. SEMA scholarships are designed to support this next generation and allow them to focus on their studies and work rather than be burdened with tuition costs. The Loan Forgiveness program is intended to provide financial assistance to employees of SEMA-member companies with outstanding student loans.”

Awards of up to $5,000 are available to qualified individuals. The online application is available until March 1 at

For more information, contact SEMA Project Manager for Member Services Byron Bergmann at

Leo Kagan
As president of SEMA in the ’70s, Leo Kagan
was instrumental in moving the annual SEMA
Show from Anaheim, California, to Las Vegas.

Industry Icon Leo Kagan Passes Away

Leo Kagan, former SEMA president and longtime industry leader, passed away at his home on December 5, 2020. He was 104.

Kagan’s lengthy background in the automotive industry included the positions of vice president of sales at Hurst Products, vice president of marketing at Automatic Radio, and vice president at American Racing Equipment. He organized the manufacturers’ representative firm Kagan, Maloney, Russo and Associates.

Kagan’s dedicated service to SEMA and the industry led to his 1982 induction into the SEMA Hall of Fame. It was Kagan who, as president of SEMA from 1975–1979, spearheaded the unprecedented growth of the annual SEMA Show, including pushing to have it moved from Anaheim, California, to Las Vegas. Kagan held a seat on the SEMA Board of Directors and proposed the creation of the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund. He was named SEMA Person of the Year in 1994.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Kagan’s memory can be made to either the SEMA Scholarship Fund or to the University of Northern Iowa Foundation, 121 Commons/UNI, Cedar Falls, IA 50614.

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