SEMA Member News
Council & Network Leadership
By SEMA Editors
Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO)
Behind the Scenes With ARMO’s Sabra Johnson
Sabra Johnson has 30-plus years of restoration experience. He started out collecting and modifying vehicles as a hobby. The hobby evolved into City Classic Cars, a flourishing Houston-area restoration business specializing in restomods and ground-up restorations.
Sabra Johnson serves on the ARMO select committee and chairs the ARMO Builder Panel and Builder Series subcommittee.
A SEMA member and a volunteer leader, Johnson serves on the select committee of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) and chairs the ARMO Builder Panel and Builder Series subcommittee.
We asked Johnson to share his thoughts on his volunteer experience and the importance of the subcommittee he leads.
SEMA Member News: What motivated you to get involved in ARMO?
Sabra Johnson: As a restorer, I have a shared affinity with ARMO for preserving and promoting the beauty and history of the automobile. Sharing that rich history is one of my passions. I’m on the select committee because SEMA encourages involvement, and I’m honored to be of service and give back.
SMN: What is the driving force behind the ARMO Builder Panel and the new Builder Series?
SJ: The vision is to create an ongoing resource culminating at the Builder Panel during the SEMA Show, where [other] builders can ask questions and be inspired by the stories and business acumen of industry leaders in the restoration segment.
The focus of the Builder Panel is to attract leading builders from various regions of the country, not just to share information to help people build better cars. It is about sharing information to help people build more profitable businesses.
For the Builder Series, we did three on-site visits led by me and my Rusty Bones Production crew. The project consisted of a feature story and professionally produced sit-down interviews with Ridler winner Steve Cook, TV personality Dan Short, and Ferrari purist Bob Smith. We also produced a series, “In the Shadows,” that focused on a student and a teacher. We tied that into how ARMO companies are training the next generation and partnering with schools and students.
I believe the digital content is invaluable and has the future potential to become a case study for an ARMO master class in restoration. The builders and manufacturers want to give back to the industry and help others find success. These digital resources will prove invaluable 20 years from now.
>>Sabra Johnson serves on the ARMO select committee and chairs the ARMO Builder Panel and Builder Series subcommittee.
Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN)
ETTN Expands Education Lineup
The Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN) has enriched its educational offerings. From a new virtual education series and an in-person tech symposium to Facebook Live Chats, ETTN programs aim to help members advance careers and build connections.
“Our mission is to provide resources to help engineers and product developers succeed in this industry,” said ETTN Chair Rob Simon. “Each of these programs provides knowledge and tools essential to continued success.”
“By collaborating with the industry’s best talents to share their knowledge and expertise, we will give members the best and most relevant program available.”—Robert Prucka, PhD, ETTN Select Committee member.
Virtual Learning Experiences
The virtual education series launched in January, with sessions scheduled monthly through October. The interactive series delves into technical topics in 30–45-min. segments. Topics range from common repairs affecting advanced driver-assistance systems and electric-vehicle powertrain technology to diesel emissions formation and beyond. The Simulive sessions are led by select committee members Robert Prucka, PhD, and Bob Morreale.
“We’re taking a deep dive into the world of automotive engineering and offering ETTN members quality content in bite-size segments,” Prucka said. “By collaborating with the industry’s best talents to share their knowledge and expertise, we will give members the best and most relevant program available.”
ETTN is also continuing with Live Chats. The platform allows members to engage with thought leaders.
How do the sessions differ from virtual education? According to Simons, Live Chat presenters share aspects of their careers and advice from a technical aspect, whereas the virtual sessions dive deeply into technical topics.
Immersive Symposium Combines Education, Networking
Merriam Webster defines “nerd” as “a person very interested in technical subjects.” That’s an apt description of ETTN’s inaugural NERD Symposium slated for August 17–19 in Detroit. The multifaceted symposium (whose acronym stands for networking, education, resources and development) is designed for engineers and product developers.
First-day activities include a tour of the new Detroit SEMA Garage, measuring sessions, and an evening networking reception. The remaining days will consist of rotating meetings, giving attendees access to a range of service providers that include test labs, tools and machinery manufacturers and intellectual-property protection experts. Additionally, in-depth training and keynote presentations will address some of today’s hottest topics. The event will conclude with the grand opening reception of the SEMA Garage.
While education is a core element, abundant networking opportunities are a high priority, Simons noted.
“Of course, we want to provide value through education, but the idea is to get engineers to network with other engineers and service providers and get involved in SEMA,” he said. “With the SEMA Board’s strategic priority on vehicle technology, we want the industry to be an attractive place to work, and we want to provide the resources for engineers and others to be part of the SEMA family.”
Future Leaders Network (FLN)
YEN Rebrands as FLN, Cultivates Aspiring Leaders
The Young Executives Network (YEN) has undergone a transformation, changing its name to the Future Leaders Network (FLN). The rebranding, approved by the SEMA Board, more accurately reflects the network’s vast membership, which encompasses a diverse workforce segmented within multiple titles and job descriptions that do not necessarily reflect an executive role.
“Our mission has always been to support our members in their career-advancement journeys... As our members aspire to further their careers, the name change more accurately reflects our goal of cultivating future leaders in our industry.”—FLN Chair Nick Caloroso
In advocating for the name change, the group noted that more than half of its 1,100-plus members do not hold executive positions, which could deter potential members from joining the network, and that changing the name would broaden the network’s appeal and encourage greater engagement.
“Our mission has always been to support our members in their career-advancement journeys,” said FLN Chair Nick Caloroso. “While we are retaining our under-40 age requirement, the word ‘young’ in our name conveyed inexperience. At the same time, the word ‘executive’ didn’t fit a substantial portion of our membership. As our members aspire to further their careers, the name change more accurately reflects our goal of cultivating future leaders in our industry.”
Mastering Leadership Skills
A new professional development program was launched in March at SEMA’s headquarters in Diamond Bar, California. The two-day leadership program, sponsored by FLN in partnership with Dale Carnegie, focused on helping a select group of FLN members master essential skills to expand both personal and professional capabilities.
The idea for the program sprang from Caloroso’s own experience of attending an immersive 12-week Dale Carnegie course. His experience motivated the network’s select committee to propose an abridged version for FLN members, which was greenlit by the SEMA Board.
According to certified Dale Carnegie Trainer Brett Campbell, the abridged version packed 12 weeks of content into two days. The interactive format focused on core learnings: confidence building, improving communication skills. and strengthening human relationships.
“One of the principles of adult learners is that they want a say in the training, and Dale Carnegie really champions that,” Campbell said. “It’s built on the idea that everyone has inherent greatness, but not everyone knows how to tap into that. Because we want everyone to experience maximum benefit, we do that by keeping participants engaged with their peers.
“As much as people think of Dale Carnegie as a public-speaking course, it’s not. It’s a leadership course. It’s about building confidence, becoming an effective communicator, [learning] how to lead through change, and how an individual can be the best possible representative of their company, both internally and externally.”
Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA)
Meet HRIA Select Committee Members
Members of the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) select committee are volunteers who work collaboratively within subcommittees and task forces to develop industry-specific tools and resources. For an inside look, we interviewed two subcommittee chairs. These are their edited comments.
Josh Mishler, Education Days Subcommittee
The industry has given me so much. It has provided an enjoyable career and introduced me to amazing individuals. When I became aware of HRIA, I wanted to be involved.
Being from the younger crowd, I knew youth involvement would be a major facet in advancing the industry. That I could help by inviting the next generation of hot rodders was very appealing.
Education Days is a wonderful initiative. The two-day event is part of the National Street Rod Association Street Rod Nationals and features 12 presenting companies. It provides member manufacturers with the opportunity for face time with consumers and hobbyists alike.
As we look to expand the reach of Education Days and further education about the industry, we’re focused on hosting a panel discussion at the Grand National Roadster Show in 2023. Details are being worked out. We hope to bring in students from area high schools and trade schools.
We are a voice for everyone who is an HRIA member. Attending open meetings is a great way to meet others in the industry, grow your connections, and brainstorm issues many of us share. If you have a passion for this industry, we would be glad to have you on our team.
Jeff Grantmeyer, Membership Subcommittee
Borgeson Universal was an HRIA member before I started in 2008. When attending trade shows, I always attended open meetings and Education Days as an attendee and a presenter. This gave me a good idea of what HRIA was about. In 2018, I threw my hat in the ring for the select committee elections.
The role of the subcommittee is to provide a key point of contact for HRIA-member companies as well as member retention and recruitment. HRIA engages with member companies through social media with our member spotlights, which feature a member company or an individual. Additionally, we have virtual and in-person meetups and open meetings throughout the year.
As a select committee, we advise SEMA as to what resources the industry needs and help to deliver those resources. Membership benefits include manufacturer seminar opportunities at Education Days, the feature-vehicle program at the SEMA Show, and access to SEMA market reports specific to the hot-rod industry. Other benefits in the works will be rolled out soon.
We are always looking to add more members to strengthen and expand our industry. We are always looking for new volunteers to join our select committee.
Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC)
MPMC Hails PRI Success, Memorializes Industry Icons
Members of the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) were overjoyed at the prospect of reuniting at the 2021 Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show. According to MPMC Chair Melissa Scoles, the atmosphere was upbeat and the show was a resounding success.
SEMA Board Chair-Elect Kyle Fickler delivered a heartwarming tribute at the MPMC Performance Industry Reception at PRI.
“PRI has always been one of my favorite shows, and it skyrocketed to the top last year,” she said. “It was great to be together again. We’re a tightknit industry, and the show did a good job of showcasing that.
“Nobody knew what to expect walking in. The staff did a great job putting together a well-run event. Everyone was happy, the aisles were crowded, conversations were engaging, booth traffic was great, and the ancillary events were well attended. It felt like a normal PRI.”
Networking Mixer Sparks Dialog
The MPMC Happy Hour afforded manufacturers and the select committee a welcome opportunity to engage in quality conversations.
MPMC kicked off the show with its traditional Happy Hour. Held after business hours on setup day, the mixer afforded manufacturers and the select committee a welcome opportunity to engage in quality conversations.
“We had some really great conversations,” Scoles noted. “We got a lot of good feedback about how we could use MPMC to better benefit to our motorsports parts manufacturers, including ideas on what other services we could provide. As a select committee, we are excited to run with some of those ideas.”
Lost Legends Remembered
MPMC ended the Show on a high note, hosting its longstanding Performance Industry Reception. Apart from the camaraderie typical of council events, the reception presented an opportunity to talk about council activities and issues important to the motorsports community.
“The reception itself was great,” Scoles said. “There was solid attendance and some great conversations. We were able to share information about MPMC and talk about volunteering. We also touched on the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act and why it’s important for our industry to support it and stay involved.”
The highlight of the evening, however, was a remembrance of industry legends who passed away during the past two years. Set against a PowerPoint collage of photos, SEMA Board Chair-Elect Kyle Fickler delivered a heartwarming tribute.
“Kyle did a really fabulous job of talking about some of the people who really impacted our industry and telling personal stories about a lot of these individuals whom we recently lost,” Scoles recalled. “It was gratifying that some family members and coworkers were able to be there and for us to honor these individuals in this way.”
Professional Restylers Organization (PRO)
PRO Cup Challenge Reaps Rewards
The 2021 PRO Cup Challenge, held by the Professional Restylers Organization (PRO), celebrated restyler craftsmanship and creativity. Seven vehicles competed, each upfitted with an accessory package that could be easily replicated, appeal to a range of customers, and enhance profitability for new-car dealers and restylers.
“We were excited to participate in two Challenge events,” said Automotive Concepts’ Dino Perfetti, whose Bronco was chosen as the fan favorite. “It allowed our team to build packages that proved profitable for our dealer partners. But the ultimate takeaway was the creatively designed packages by some of the leading companies in our industry.”
Four contestants—including winner Tom Waitzman—shared their experiences in interviews with SEMA Member News. Here are edited excerpts:
Chelsea Allen, Crush Customs
I’ve always been in awe of the cars on display at the SEMA Show. When the opportunity presented itself, Colby McLaughlin (PRO chair-elect) encouraged me to apply.
Putting together a build during a pandemic was challenging. Overcoming those challenges was a huge morale boost for our team. I brought some of my guys to the SEMA Show. Their joy at seeing their work on display was priceless, and the dealer couldn’t be more pleased: The vehicle sold in three days.
It’s great for restylers to see builds we can recreate. Discussing ideas and benefits with fellow PRO members presents huge opportunities.
Chris Turgeon, On the Rocks 4x4
When I learned about the Challenge, we talked about how it would be a boost to our small shop. We’ve always had a goal of doing restyling for dealers but had yet to make good contacts.
We benefitted in many ways. It was a hit with our social media. We gained new followers, with a percentage turning into customers. It provided a boost of credibility with our suppliers.
One of the best benefits was exposure to dealers. When we finished the truck, we showed it around. This has led to many leads and steady accessory work with two multi-line dealer groups. The exposure is already paying dividends.
Aaron Vaccar, Vaccar Co.—City Kia
I learned about the Challenge from media coverage of the 2019 SEMA Show. The desire to participate in 2021 aligned with the work I’m involved with and my passion for project vehicles.
I gravitated toward a Kia because of my relationship with City Kia. While the idea of added marketing was a worthwhile benefit, it was equally meaningful to support a unique, education-type contribution.
For PRO members, the Challenge can be a source of aspiration, inspiration and information. These are real-world examples that get budgeted, built and sold. It provides a rare, unfiltered look at how a profitable business relationship exists between restylers and dealerships.
Tom Waitzman, DPS Automotive Group
I saw the 2019 Challenge. Once it was announced for 2021, I wanted to be involved. I’m proud of what my team does on a daily basis, and the opportunity to show that at the SEMA Show was very exciting.
I’ve always dreamed of having a car at the SEMA Show. I knew choosing a brand like VW, which doesn’t get accessorized as much as other brands, would set us apart. Winning the Challenge brings an enormous amount of pride and satisfaction for the hard work we put into the build.
Having a car at the SEMA Show is an accomplishment in itself. Restylers should want to show customers and their peers what they do to support our industry.
SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN)
SBN Forges Ahead With New Initiatives
The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) kicked off 2022 on a high note, launching its latest virtual education series and Live Chats in January, followed by SBN’s Leadership Forum and plans to embark on an all-female project-vehicle build.
“We are excited for the opportunities we’ve created for our members to expand their knowledge and leadership skills,” said Chair Cathy Clark.
In 2012, SBN tackled the SEMA Mustang Build Powered by Women. More than 40 industry women volunteered their time and talents to customize a ’13 Mustang GT.
SBN has successfully utilized virtual platforms to deliver information and resources. The current lineup of Facebook Live Chats, for instance, offers insights into the careers of seven prominent industry women.
“Live Chats are a great way to learn about accomplished women and how they forged their own paths in a male-dominated industry,” Clark said. “They all have inspiring stories to share.”
The virtual education series focuses on refining professional skills and knowhow. Sessions are free. They are open to women at any level in their careers, and both members and nonmembers are encouraged to attend.
Each of the 11 sessions is presented by a professional speaker with expertise in a specific topic. Subjects include the importance of performance reviews, implementing a healthy work/life balance, navigating change, how to maximize one’s role for success and more.
The newest experience was the in-person Leadership Forum held in mid-March in Costa Mesa, California. The fee-based, women-centric event concentrated on honing leadership skills and community building through education, mentorship and group discussions.
“SBN is focused on providing resources to help our members advance their careers,” Clark said. “Our resources and event committees teamed up to provide a worthwhile forum for women to grow personally and professionally.”
SBN recently received SEMA Board approval for an all-female build. SBN plans to partner with a West Coast shop and the SEMA Garage.
Harnessing Female Talent
In 2012, SBN tackled an ambitious project: the SEMA Mustang Build Powered by Women, with SEMA and Ford Motor Company teaming up for the build. While many member companies contributed products and services, more than 40 industry women volunteered their time and talents to customize a ’13 Mustang GT. The project was a huge success, garnering widespread media coverage, and was ultimately auctioned to raise funds for the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Flash forward to 2022. SBN recently received SEMA Board approval for an all-female build. SBN plans to partner with a West Coast shop and the SEMA Garage to host the vehicle and encourage participation among association members.
Though details are still being ironed out (a proposal to an OEM to receive a project vehicle is in the works), the goal is to build a vehicle that encompasses and showcases many women’s skill sets. The project also aims to create opportunities for women to learn new skills. By increasing awareness of female expertise and their presence in the industry, the project aspires to shift the dynamic of a male-dominated industry to create equal opportunities for women.
According to Clark, once the vehicle is secured, work will begin in the late spring or early summer, with plans to unveil the completed project at the 2022 SEMA Show.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a while,” Clark said. “The goal is to feature the vehicle in an OEM booth at the SEMA Show. For 2023, we plan to take the vehicle to events to promote the build and show off what women in our industry do. We are so excited that the SEMA Board has greenlit the project, and we can’t wait to get started.”
Truck & Off-Road Alliance (TORA)
TORA Sets Fundraising Record
Improving the lives of children in need through charitable contributions is a worthy cause, one that the SEMA Board embraced in 2007 with the establishment of SEMA Cares. The nonprofit provides a forum for SEMA members to act as a collective influence by making a positive impact beyond the automotive
The Pinewood Derby is a lively staple that sparks enthusiasm and opens wallets for SEMA Cares.
SEMA Cares supports three charities: Childhelp for the prevention and treatment of child abuse; Victory Junction for children with serious medical conditions; and the Austin Hatcher Foundation for pediatric cancer care.
Primary fundraising is through direct donations and charitable events, including the popular Pinewood races and the Industry Cup Challenge, held during the SEMA Installation Gala. Some SEMA councils—and notably the Truck & Off-Road Alliance (TORA)—have embraced SEMA Cares in a variety of ways.
Some SEMA councils—and notably the Truck & Off-Road Alliance (TORA)—have embraced SEMA Cares in a variety of ways.
Making a Difference
As anyone who’s attended TORA’s industry reception at the SEMA Show knows, the Pinewood Derby is a lively staple that sparks enthusiasm and opens wallets for SEMA Cares.
“Our community has supported SEMA Cares for many years, back to the Light Truck Accessory Alliance,” said Troy Wirtz, council chair. “It’s such a worthy cause, and we promote that. We want our members to know that participation in the Pinewood Derby directly benefits the three charities.”
Putting the derby together took a team effort, with volunteers helping to set up and operate the track and others manning the door.
“Everyone’s always willing to pitch in,” Wirtz said. “Dave Williams helped with setup, Rick Hermann did a great job again as emcee, and we’re grateful to everyone who helped make the Pinewood Derby a success.
“The new location on the West Hall terrace was great. It worked to our advantage. There was only one door to get in, which helped with the sale of the cars. We were able to capture everybody walking in.”
In 2019, TORA raised about $3,500.
“We wanted to hit the $4,200 mark last year , and we did,” Wirtz said. “SEMA matched that, so we ended up hitting $8,400. That $4,200 came just from the sale of cars at $20 apiece. Knowing we’re making a difference in children’s lives is such a good feeling.”
Wheel & Tire Council (WTC)
WTC Presents Educational, Networking Opportunities
Following on the heels of its successful webinar series, the Wheel & Tire Council (WTC) has embarked on a new virtual education initiative for its members. While the 2021 program consisted of separate tracks (one for wheel specialists, the other for tire pros), the current program covers a range of topics.
“...Education needs to be at the forefront, and we want it to be impactful to the entire membership.”—WTC Chair Todd Steen
“Things are changing so rapidly that we should all be looking at ways to stay at the top of our games,” said WTC Chair Todd Steen. “Therefore, education needs to be at the forefront, and we want it to be impactful to the entire membership.”
Steen noted that the schedule includes six webinars, one every other month, with the possibility of a seventh presentation. All sessions are presented live and run 30–45 min., allowing speakers to answer questions on the spot.
The lineup features industry thought leaders and experts, including SEMA Board members and staff. Subjects run the gamut from a deep dive into the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act and advancements in tire and wheel designs to ways to grow and sustain business for the future.
“The value lies in giving people insights in small bites on a regular basis so that everyone can take advantage,” Steen said. “Whether it’s what wheels and tires will look like in five, 10 or 20 years, the RPM Act as it relates to our members, or human resources issues, it’s about sharing nuggets of industry and business wisdom.”
Virtual and In-Person Connections
Intent on helping members build meaningful connections and having some fun in the process, WTC has taken a two-pronged approach that includes virtual events and in-person gatherings.
To jumpstart the season, the council teamed with two SEMA networks to cohost a networking mixer during the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California. That event was followed by a similar joint mixer at the Keystone Big Show in Dallas, Texas, in March, with future WTC gatherings slated for an Off-Road Expo and a Formula DRIFT event.
In early February, members were treated to a unique and entertaining virtual experience—a live version of Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform that allows remote players to join a game or trivia quiz. The event was emceed by industry pioneer Brad Fanshaw, who shared stories about life as a custom car builder, TV personality and entrepreneur. A second virtual event is on tap for August 3.
For details on upcoming webinars and networking opportunities, log on to the WTC Facebook page, check out council updates or visit www.sema.org/wtc.