A Sneak Peek at What’s New and Exciting for the 2021 SEMA Show
By Mike Imlay
With the specialty-equipment industry eager to reconnect in person after a two-year hiatus, SEMA is on course to present what may well be its most exciting SEMA Show ever in the trade event’s 50-plus-year history. The live 2021 SEMA Show will take place November 2–5 at the newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).
“We know that there’s pent-up demand for companies to gather and showcase all the new products and innovations they’ve been working on these past two years,” said SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. “In fact, we see exhibitors across the aftermarket gearing up for the 2021 SEMA Show. Many have increased their booth spaces or otherwise enhanced their Show presence. They have exciting things in store for attendees and the media, and we can’t wait to welcome the entire industry back to Las Vegas.”
The annual SEMA Show has long been recognized as the only place in the world that brings together every segment of the automotive industry to celebrate innovation, ingenuity and passion for automobiles, but this year’s trade-only event has been especially planned to provide industry businesses with a platform and resources to support new partnerships, collaborations and growth.
“We understand how vital the SEMA Show is to thousands of businesses in the specialty-equipment industry, so our goal is to deliver them an event they can rely on,” Gattuso explained. “Along with an expanded floorplan, we’re adding exciting new features, interactive areas, easier navigation and other enhancements for an optimum Show experience focused on new products, technology and trends.”
In other words, while the 2021 SEMA Show follows in the tradition of prior Shows, expect this year’s trade event to break new ground as it welcomes the industry back to the LVCC. Here’s a sampling of some of the latest developments.
The New West Hall
You literally can’t miss this latest addition to the LVCC. Completed earlier this year, the newly constructed facility encompasses a total of 1.4 million sq. ft., allowing the SEMA Show to optimize its 2021 floorplan. Among the hall’s noteworthy architectural features is its main-entrance “Lobby Spectacular” screen, which the LVCC hails as “the largest digital experience in the U.S. convention and exhibits industry.” More importantly for Showgoers, the facility includes 600,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space—roughly the equivalent of eight NFL football fields—and 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. A 14,000-sq.-ft. outdoor terrace offers sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip.
The SEMA Show plans to put the hall’s tremendous capacity to good use. Starting this year, the West Hall will house exhibitors from the Restyling & Car Care Accessories, Powersports & Utility Vehicles, and Truck, SUV & Off-Road sections. This realignment is just one element in an overall plan to enhance the Show’s entire attendee experience, connecting exhibitors with buyers and media through engaging and interactive features and activities. Another immediate benefit will be improved traffic flow, not only for the above-mentioned Show sections but also throughout this year’s SEMA trade event. Of course, the new hall will also help accommodate the Show’s continued growth beyond 2021.
The Boring Company Tunnel
With Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has helped push transportation technology forward, so it seems only fitting that the 2021 SEMA Show will be among the first trade events to showcase his new Boring Company Tunnel beneath the LVCC. To be accurate, the recently completed project actually involved boring two parallel tunnels 40 ft. below the surface. Dubbed the Convention Center Loop, the tunnels feature three stations and run a 4,475-ft. distance between the South Hall and the new West Hall.
The free system utilizes a fleet of all-electric Teslas as people-movers that can whisk 4,400 attendees per hour across the 200-acre LVCC campus in just under 2 min. (On foot, the walk could easily take half an hour.) While capable of reaching 150 mph, the Loop vehicles are limited to 35 to 40 mph due to the short distance involved. For now, they’re also piloted by drivers, but the goal is to operate at full autonomy sometime down the line. Future plans also include additional tunnels connecting the LVCC with key Las Vegas infrastructure and locations.
There’s a major change in on-site registration for the 2021 Show. Main Registration is moving completely out of its former Westgate location to the LVCC’s Lower South Hall East. This places registration and check-in activities right on the Show floor, making it much more efficient.
“Although relocated, it will be the same full-service registration center that attendees are used to,” Gattuso said. “In addition, there will be two satellite stations for confirmed attendees with barcodes to pick up their official, printed badges. Those check-ins will be found in the North and West Halls.”
For even greater convenience, the SEMA Show strongly encourages preregistration online at www.SEMAShow.com/register to save time and money. (If completed before the domestic preregistration of October 8, you can even get your badge in the mail.)
New Products Showcase
The New Products Showcase is renowned for its display of cutting-edge industry innovation. So much so that it’s a favorite first stop for attendees upon entering the Show. But this year, thanks to the LVCC expansion, the Showcase is also relocating—to the upper South Hall.
“It’s also going to be an expanded area,” Gattuso said. “This Show section had outgrown its former location and needed breathing room for future growth. We expect strong participation from our exhibitors this year, and the new location gives us the ability to better showcase the thousands of new products we’ll have on display and improve the visitor
experience as well.”
In addition, the 2021 SEMA Show app will enable attendees to scan and retrieve product information directly from their mobile devices, and they can also use the app to map a quick path to the exhibitors whose products they’ve scanned. (The app is available for free from Android or Apple app stores.)
SEMA Launch Pad
Originally begun as a SEMA Young Executives Network (YEN) initiative, the SEMA Launch Pad put entrepreneurs and innovators under age 40 through a “Shark Tank”-style competition for a prize package designed to launch the winning business venture. Now a full-fledged SEMA association program, the age cap has been removed for 2021, and the field of competitors has been broadened.
“There will be more participating companies and progressive elimination rounds throughout Show Week, with filming for a television production that highlights the personalities involved while following the ins and outs of the competition,” Gattuso explained. “We believe that this is a prime opportunity to help viewers better understand our industry’s products and the innovators who produce them.”
Look for Launch Pad to have a more prominent presence in the LVCC’s Central Hall, with regular announcements and interviews at SEMA Central. The finale takes place at the annual SEMA Industry Awards Banquet on Thursday night, November 4.
SEMA Education Tracks
Featuring industry icons, celebrities and top subject-matter experts, the SEMA Show Education Program makes it easy for Showgoers to take advantage of learning opportunities and still have time to see new products and connect on the Show floor. Sessions begin on November 1, the day before the SEMA Show officially opens, and include offerings through Friday, November 5.
“Over the past year, SEMA turned to virtual education to provide members and the industry with world-class learning opportunities, and now we’re excited to build on that program again to deliver a newly expanded in-person experience at the 2021 SEMA Show,” said Gary Vigil, SEMA senior manager of professional development.
In fact, SEMA and its partners—the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, and the Tire Industry Association—are set to deliver their most comprehensive and relevant education programs ever, honing in on subject matter that excites passion and that the aftermarket industry cares about. This year’s topic list includes seminars on automotive electronics, aftermarket updates and future trends, digital marketing, legal and regulatory issues, small-business strategies, vehicle electrification, and emerging vehicle technologies. Especially new for 2021 is a leadership track sponsored by the world-renowned Dale Carnegie Program. There will also be a fresh batch of Brew Talks, a “Builders Talk Business” panel, and a CEO series.
The SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited
For years, Las Vegas crowds gathered spontaneously to watch the hundreds of feature vehicles exit the SEMA Show after the event closed on Friday. Then, in 2011, SEMA made it an official parade that now culminates at SEMA Ignited, the Show’s huge public after-party. Now the SEMA Cruise is evolving yet again.
“New for this year, the SEMA Cruise will be traveling in a similar direction to the course it took for its first seven years,” Gattuso said. “That will take the vehicles past the front of the exhibit halls to a terminus on the west end of the LVCC campus, giving us an opportunity to reinvigorate the parade and add more ample viewing areas for our industry participants and the general public.”
SEMA Ignited—which was conceived as a consumer-facing event sharing the thrills and excitement of the automotive lifestyle—will likewise relocate to a festival area west of the new West Hall.
Still in the Planning
There are many other new or updated features for the 2021 SEMA Show. While details are not yet ready for a full announcement, here are a few teasers based on information available at press time.
The Monday Night Reveal: Expect a number of added features to the Monday Night Reveal party that’s thrown exclusively for exhibitors and media the evening before Show opening. Among them, Hoonigan will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its company launch, which actually took place at the 2011 SEMA Show. (Also look for a bigger Hoonigan presence than ever in its “Burnyard” throughout Show Week in front of the South Hall.) The Monday Night Reveal has become a popular Show kickoff that is highlighted by its news-making debuts of OEM and builder vehicles.
A Tribute to Chip Foose: “Chip Foose has been at the center of vehicle builds for the better part of two decades,” Gattuso observed. “We plan a display of many of his favorite builds, along with exclusive artwork and an on-site vehicle build. It’s our way of celebrating the influence he’s had on the industry and giving him the thanks that he deserves.” A stage for special interviews and other related activities is also planned for the North Hall feature.
SCORE Baja 1000: This Show feature will present more than 40 vehicles representing all the levels of off-road racing, along with the support vehicles that are often the motorsport’s unsung heroes. SCORE racing vehicles are heavily associated with the aftermarket industry’s products, from performance parts to tools and equipment. “The racing vehicles are always exciting, but for our industry, the support vehicles are amazing too. They’re like traveling garages that make the desert racing possible,” Gattuso said. Formerly located in the Silver Lot, the SCORE Baja 1000 feature moves to the North Hall
The Overland Experience: “Overlanding will get an expanded footprint at the 2021 Show,” Gattuso noted. “It’s moving to the West Hall with all-new vehicles that will showcase the latest trends and products found in this market sector. We’ll also include a dedicated education area so that attendees can discover the business benefits of participating in this segment.”
SEMA Battle of the Builders: This contest has grown into arguably the industry’s most-watched building challenge. The competition spotlights builders of vehicles featured throughout the Show, winnowing the field down to a group of top 10 finalists who then choose the event’s overall winner. The competition this year also receives an expanded presence, with a special area dedicated to interviews and vehicle reveals, including cars by past contestants and winners. Showgoers will also be able to see the final 2021 judging as it progresses all day Friday.
“The opening of the new West Hall and the expansion of the LVCC has given us a broader canvas upon which to paint our Show,” Gattuso concluded. “It has really allowed us to undertake a lot of new and improved features and programs that will certainly benefit Showgoers and their businesses. We see the 2021 SEMA Show as a sort of homecoming for the industry, and we’re committed to welcoming exhibitors, attendees and media back to what promises to be our best trade event ever.”
What’s New and Exciting With Showgoers?
From every corner of the aftermarket, SEMA exhibitors are announcing their readiness to get back to a live, trade-only event and share their latest products, achievements and news with buyers and media. For many, it will be a chance to catch the industry up on two years of innovation, evolution and progress.
Among 2021 SEMA Show participants, CTEK has signed on not only as an exhibitor but also as an authorized battery charger sponsor for the Show and its 2021 SEMA Cruise. According to Bobbie DuMelle, executive vice president for CTEK North America, the Show is a perfect fit for CTEK.
“We’re a solutions-based company, and we spend a lot of the time at the Show talking to people about batteries,” she said. “Because the SEMA Show is one of the leading automotive shows on the planet, it also means that it’s the biggest market-research opportunity we have. Workshop owners, professionals and builders are all there under one roof, and they’re all there because they enjoy cars.
“I think this year’s Show will be bigger and better than ever before. People missed gathering last year, so everyone’s looking forward to reconnecting in person at the 2021 Show as a way to showcase and celebrate cars and everything SEMA has to offer.”
Meanwhile, FrontLane founder and 2020 Launch Pad winner Roland Hence voiced similar enthusiasm about the 2021 SEMA Show. He first attended the Show in 2019 and then the online SEMA360 trade event in 2020 to showcase his company’s Impulse product—a pulsating, battery-powered brake light designed to reduce rearend collisions from trailing drivers.
“I’m excited to be back in person,” he said. “SEMA360 was extremely productive for us, but nothing beats the energy of an in-person SEMA Show. By attending the 2019 SEMA Show when we first started, we gained industry connections and insights that we simply wouldn’t have been able to gain otherwise. That gave us a strong footing.”
According to Hence, business really took off after winning the Launch Pad competition the following year.
“We were approached by large distributor partners, met incredible industry experts, and connected with fellow entrepreneurs,” he said. “Our company has since gone on a hiring spree, raised more capital for growth, and quickly set new sales records.”
Hence said that his goals for the 2021 SEMA Show include furthering partnerships to scale sales of Impulse while introducing Tailbone, a similar collision-alert system designed specifically for heavy-duty trucking applications.
Health and Safety Measures
With the changed environment surrounding large-scale public gatherings, SEMA has been working closely with state, local and LVCC officials in planning the 2021 SEMA Show. As of press time, events in Nevada were trending positively. Nevada businesses returned to full capacity on June 1, 2021. Soon after, the LVCC reopened its doors to the World of Concrete trade show. That event, which drew tens of thousands of participants, was the first major convention to be held at the LVCC in 15 months and was deemed a success.
In addition, the LVCC was awarded the Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR facility accreditation by ISSA, the world’s leading cleaning-industry association, which is considered the gold standard for safe facilities.
“We’ve closely monitored these events and have adopted the latest best practices for creating a safe Show environment, along with instituting measures of our own,” Gattuso said. “We’re in constant communication with government and health authorities as well as leading trade-industry experts for up-to-date guidance. While health and safety protocols are subject to change right up to Show week, we will remain in compliance with all the state and local requirements as we welcome our industry back to Las Vegas.”
Register and Plan Now to Attend!
If you haven’t yet registered to attend the 2021 SEMA Show, taking place Tuesday–Friday, November 2–5, now is the time to do it. Visit www.SEMAShow.com/attendee to register.
Attendees can also see who’s exhibiting through the updated floorplan at www.SEMAShow.com/floorplan.
To register for the SEMA Education tracks, go to www.SEMAShow.com/education.