SEMA to Go Citywide in Las Vegas
Headlines by the 2023 SEMA Show, “SEMA Week” Will Kick Off This November
By SEMA News Editors
SEMA has announced an ambitious five-year initiative to extend the annual SEMA Show’s reach citywide in Las Vegas. Officially dubbed SEMA Week, the goal is to create the world’s most expansive and exciting automotive event for industry and enthusiasts alike. Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association
Among the highlights of the 2022 SEMA Industry Awards Banquet was the announcement of a bold five-year vision to expand the SEMA Show into an “all-city” Las Vegas experience. Officially called SEMA Week, the plan seeks to develop the world’s most passionate and exciting automotive event for both industry businesses and vehicle enthusiasts. SEMA Week will kick off this November 2023 with multiple new concepts, activities and events continuing to be phased in over the five-year roll-out period.
The business-to-business SEMA Show will continue to anchor SEMA Week, with the Show remaining a trade-only event Tuesday through Thursday. On Friday, the final day of the SEMA Show, a greater number of qualified enthusiasts will gain exclusive access to the Show through the Friday Experience program, which was launched two years ago. The traditional SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited after-party—which draw thousands of fans on Friday—will also remain in place.
The big change will begin Friday evening of SEMA Week, when the association will take over the nearby Las Vegas Festival Grounds to debut an all-new SEMA Fest event. Open to the entire public, the festival will continue through Saturday night.
“We have been watching the connection between enthusiasts and our industry grow for more than a decade and, as the industry’s trade association, have a responsibility to help facilitate that connection in new and meaningful ways,” said James Lawrence, SEMA Chairman of the Board. “By creating SEMA Week and SEMA Fest, we will be able to maintain the integrity of the trade show that makes it a must-attend event for automotive professionals while introducing a new platform for enthusiasts and the industry to engage with one another.”
Although SEMA Week will mark a major turning point for the association, SEMA President and CEO Mike Spagnola noted it follows a progression of recent SEMA outreaches to the enthusiast market. “In 2007, we brought the television show “Overhaulin’” to the SEMA Show. In 2011, the SEMA Cruise was launched. In 2014, we introduced SEMA Ignited and the SEMA Battle of the Builders. And [in 2021], the Friday Experience brought 5,000 automotive consumers to be part of the SEMA Show,” he said.
According to SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso, SEMA Week’s SEMA Fest will unite automotive enthusiasts with the aftermarket industry “in a high-octane and immersive festival-like celebration of car culture.” The event will feature top music and entertainment, a car show and cruise, VIP experiences, craft food, automotive celebrities and motorsport events.
Some may wonder why a trade association like SEMA, best known for its industry-only Show, is now making such a sizable commitment to the consumer space as well. In announcing SEMA Week, Lawrence explained it is part of a broader initiative to capture the hearts and imaginations of the enthusiast public and galvanize consumers behind the industry. A trade association has only so many business voices it can make heard. But a trade association supported by millions of consumers who use and enjoy its products speaks volumes to governmental policymakers at a time when the right to enjoy and modify vehicles is under threat.
“We as an association need to step out of the background, step up to the podium, and take a bigger charge in leading this. Politically, SEMA needs to be bolder and act more decisively, with more conviction,” he said.
The SEMA Week concept also aligns with a trend reshaping the trade-show industry at large. “This is a natural evolution of the many live activations and performance demonstrations we’ve been creating for years now,” said Gattuso. “We’re going to leverage a decade of planning and events into what the trade-show industry has labeled ‘festivalization.’ The great thing about creating a festival-type experience is it turns enthusiasts into evangelists. It can also turn car-curious people into enthusiasts.”
“During the pandemic our industry’s pathway from manufacturers or service providers to end-user enthusiasts became more direct than ever,” added Gattuso. “With SEMA Week we’re building on that connectivity to help the end-user understand our industry’s latest trends, innovations and products and speed up the timeframe to consumer adoption.”
Although SEMA Week will be open to the general public at other Las Vegas venues, the flagship SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center will continue as the industry’s premier trade-only event Tuesday through Thursday of SEMA Week.
SEMA Week will also include a SEMA Auction featuring some of the best builds from the Show, plus many more amazing vehicles to headline the festivities. As an association, SEMA will continue to expand and refine SEMA Week, adding new events and activities throughout the city of Las Vegas each year. The city is fast becoming a hub for car culture, Gattuso observed, and SEMA plans to fuel and build on that phenomenon.
“Our commitment to growing and maintaining our industry’s B2B connections hasn’t changed,” emphasized Gattuso. “SEMA Week adds a new opportunity to deliver our core industry audience the best automotive event that they’ve ever been to while introducing a whole new realm of people into what our industry does.”
Perhaps SEMA Chairman James Lawrence best summed up SEMA Week’s potential during his Industry Awards Banquet announcement: “It’s going to be everything you love about SEMA, and so much more,” he said. “We believe, within a few years, it’s going to make SEMA Week the can’t-miss automotive event in the world.”
In coming months, additional details regarding the 2023 SEMA Show, SEMA Week, and SEMA Fest will be announced through multiple SEMA communications channels, including this magazine, SEMA News digital and social media.