FROM MIKE SPAGNOLA
SEMA Show 2022: Big Ideas and Broad Horizons
The 2022 SEMA Show included all the excitement and familiar features that make the Show the industry’s annual must-attend event. This year, the Show grew by 35% from the previous year—a clear demonstration that the industry is back to full strength. Many exhibitors grew their footprint, taking advantage of a newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center. Familiar features like the Battle of the Builders, the Overland Experience and the New Product Showcase also returned at expanded levels as generators of innovation and opportunity. Banquets, industry receptions, educational tracks and awards presentations were all well attended, providing attendees paths to develop and build new meaningful connections. But along with the familiar was a huge dose of the new. New technologies, new visions of the future, and most of all, new expansive ideas with the potential to open broad new horizons.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the 2022 Show came at the Thursday Industry Awards Banquet when SEMA Chairman of the Board James Lawrence announced plans for an exciting new platform to engage end consumers and an enthusiast base that has shown accelerated growth over the last decade. A new celebration of car culture, called SEMA Fest, will represent a consumer-facing expansion of the SEMA Show, and will be open to everyone—car clubs, motorsports enthusiasts, and individual consumers alike.
As a trade-only event, the SEMA Show has long kept its manufacture exhibits, incredible cars, innovative products, celebrities and VIPs behind closed doors, limiting attendance to qualified industry attendees—with very few exceptions. The SEMA Show has always been a platform to develop relationships between retailers, channel partners, manufacturers and distributors, and as a showcase of innovation and opportunity. Even with continued success in that role, there have been moments when industry leaders have considered the value of allowing access to consumers and enthusiasts. Over the years, association research has surfaced a variety of opinions, and more recently, some limited steps have been taken to explore the possibilities. But the risk of complicating the Show’s intensive business-to-business activity has always made the majority of participants wary of a sweeping change in format. Yet the growing opportunity to more directly connect enthusiasts with the industry clearly offered some alluring long-term benefits. SEMA, with its responsibility as the industry’s trade association to grow and strengthen America’s love affair with cars and trucks, has now unveiled a five-year plan to greatly facilitate that connection.
SEMA Fest will kick off in 2023 as the first step toward building SEMA Week, an “all-city” experience. Taking place at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, it offers sufficient space to include a wide variety of activities, including top music and entertainment, a car show and cruise, VIP experiences, automotive celebrities, craft food and motorsports demonstrations. It will run alongside the SEMA Ignited Cruise and SEMA Show after-party, which already draws thousands of enthusiasts on Friday night. The goal is to build the most exciting, passionate, and immersive event in the automotive world, and ultimately, provide the powerful connection between the automotive aftermarket industry and the enthusiast community that the SEMA Show was never intended to accommodate. Additional details for the 2023 SEMA Show, SEMA Week, and SEMA Fest will be announced in the coming months.
The SEMA Show has always been a predictive, forward-looking event, powered by new ideas. Indications are, this year’s Show forecasts a confident, more inclusive future.