SEMA News—October 2021

Building a Voice of Impact:

SEMA Individual Membership

By Chris Kersting

Chris KerstingThe Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) was founded to represent a community of companies that serve the needs and passions of automotive enthusiasts around the world. There are a few different categories of SEMA membership—manufacturers, distributors/retailers, and a variety of service providers—but with few exceptions, only companies have ever been allowed to join SEMA.

That is about to change.

In May 2021, the SEMA Board approved a new SEMA Individual Membership category and amended the SEMA bylaws to allow for individuals to become SEMA members. This momentous change means that enthusiasts, consumers, students and anyone who embraces and enjoys the customization of all things automotive will, for the first time, be able to join SEMA and join in the fight to preserve, protect and grow the automotive hobbies.

By building an individual member category, the association is building the capability to address an increasingly challenging regulatory landscape—one that is unfavorable to vehicle enthusiasts and the industry that supports them. This change is necessary because the policy-making machinery at the federal and state levels is more active than ever, progressively pushing gas-powered vehicles to the side without regard for all the positives they represent—and the needs and wants they serve—in today’s world.

The current political sentiment in Washington, D.C., often supported in the media, has caused a strong tide that is running against the future of the internal-combustion engine. Targets have been announced for the end of gas-powered cars and trucks despite the challenges facing electric vehicles, including power supply, infrastructure, vehicle costs and range limitations, to name a few.

Sadly, electric vehicles are not presented as a useful complement to the 282-million-vehicle-strong fleet of gas-powered daily drivers but as the only vehicle option that should be available. And never mind about the incredible strides made in delivering clean internal-combustion engines powering the current American demand in the vehicle marketplace.

More specifically for our industry, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that modified cars and trucks are a worthy target for increased enforcement activity, regardless of the fact that these vehicles are often not daily drivers and contribute little to the overall emissions totals from automobiles. The EPA has even gone so far as to say that the Clean Air Act prohibits conversion of street vehicles for exclusive use in racing. It is now requiring an Act of Congress—specifically, the SEMA-sponsored Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act—to get us back to a reading of the law that’s been honored by the EPA for the past 50 years.

At the state level, policymakers are also adopting bold zero-emissions vehicle targets; some have announced plans to ban the sales of new internal-combustion-engine vehicles by the end of the decade. And carmakers are on the bandwagon touting that they will soon be offering all-electric fleets.

Those are just some of the most immediate challenges to the American love affair with horsepower and the automobile. SEMA has taken the position that these challenges cannot go unanswered. We will need a united voice.

SEMA’s initiative to enroll individual enthusiasts in membership is a way for all of us to band together, to help each other protect and preserve the opportunity to enjoy the automotive hobbies that contribute so much to the nation’s recreational culture and the economy.

SEMA Individual Members will receive a regular SEMA newsletter as well as action alerts to help join the fight to preserve the hobby. And for the first time, enthusiasts who join will be able to contribute to the SEMA PAC—the industry fund that supports federal legislators who help support and protect the automotive culture. Members will also receive a membership card, SEMA Individual Member decals and a member-insignia ballcap—all to proudly display their support of the right to modify their vehicles and to enjoy the automotive lifestyle.

The SEMA Individual Membership initiative will launch at the end of September 2021. To learn more about how to encourage your company’s employees and your enthusiast customers to join, please contact the SEMA membership team at

We look forward to growing this collection of spirited enthusiasts to create a voice of the automotive culture that cannot be ignored. Together we can help ensure that gearheads of today and tomorrow will be enjoying their modified cars and trucks for many years into the future!

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