SEMA News—January 2023


A Show of Excellence

Award-Winning Innovators, Icons and a Big Announcement Were Center Stage at the 2022 SEMA Show

By Mike Imlay

One of the annual SEMA Show’s many distinctions is its weeklong display of greatness. From new products and innovations to the groundbreaking people driving the specialty aftermarket to new heights, the SEMA Show reflects the industry’s reach for excellence. Perhaps that’s the reason the Show’s award ceremonies resonate so deeply with thousands of Show participants.

“We are pleased to congratulate all the winners that we celebrated throughout numerous events and competitions during the 2022 SEMA Show Week,” said SEMA President and CEO Mike Spagnola. “This is an industry founded on deep-seated passion and the constant enthusiasm to excel at one’s craft—and all our SEMA Show winners and honorees embody that spirit.”

The 2022 SEMA Show introduced several major updates to its traditional awards presentations. First, with e-commerce expanding and data-driven transactions becoming more routine, the SEMA Warehouse Distributor of the Year award evolved into a new Channel Partner of the Year award. The award honors the contributions of sales, distributors, retailers and e-commerce channel(s) in the industry as well as the distribution companies that support retailers.

In addition, the Channel Partner of the Year and the Manufacturer of the Year award presentations were moved to the SEMA Show Kickoff Breakfast on Tuesday morning, November 1, at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Held just before the Show’s official opening, the event was previously called the New Products Awards Breakfast. Under its new name, the 2022 event continued its tradition of honoring the Show’s best new products across numerous categories, including two new categories for electric vehicle and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) products.

Jarod DeAnda, known as the “voice of Formula Drift,” hosted the reformatted 2022 breakfast. He was joined on stage by Hoonigan driver Ken Block and Hoonigan Co-Founder Brian Scotto, who discussed “Electrikhana,” a new video featuring an all-electric Audi S1 Hoonitron that was shot on the streets of Las Vegas. “Electrikhana” is the latest video of the wildly popular
Gymkhana series.

“Combining the Channel Partner of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year and New Product Awards into one event early in the week enabled winners to promote their honors throughout Show Week,” said SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. “We were also very honored and excited to have Ken Block and Brian Scotto at the event. They are inspirational, and the ‘Gymkhana’ series and cars represent what our industry is all about.”

Meanwhile, the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, the traditional Thursday-night venue for major awards, also got a dynamic makeover, which included a novel center stage and a streamlined run time. Themed “Further. Faster. Together.,” the event featured the SEMA Person of the Year and GEN-III Innovator of the Year awards, along with the first-ever SEMA Influencer of the Year award designed to honor content creators who make a positive industry impact across social-media channels. The evening also included a tribute to industry icons Walker Evans, Jack Roush and Robert Eugene “Gene” Winfield, who were named to the SEMA Hall of Fame in the summer of 2022.

The banquet further made headlines with the announcement that the SEMA Show is going citywide in Las Vegas, starting this year (see article, p. 44). Another high point came with the audience of about 3,000 casting the deciding votes via text to name Kevin Robinson, inventor of the TRAC Tire Jack, as the ultimate winner of the 2022 SEMA Launch Pad competition. Winnowed from a field of five Show finalists, he and runner-up Susan Pieper, DMOS Collective CEO, got to pitch their product ideas before panelists Chip Foose, Jared Hare, Myles Kovacs and Alex Parker just before the audience vote.

“There were many changes to our Show’s recognition programs for 2022,” observed Gattuso. “All our awards and recognitions represent an extremely dynamic industry, so as our industry has evolved, we’ve been pleased to evolve with it.

The following photos capture the winning moments and highlights of the Show’s many award presentations at the Kickoff Breakfast and the Industry Awards Banquet.

SEMA Launch Pad WInner
(Industry Banquet)
Kevin Robinson, TRAC LLC

Kevin Robinson, president of TRAC LLC, reacts to his Launch Pad win at the annual SEMA Industry Awards Banquet. Robinson pitched his TRAC Tire Jack product—a tool designed to remove or install a wheel/tire easily and safely—live at the event and walked away with a grand-prize package valued at nearly $100,000.

Sharing the Passion
(Industry Banquet)
James Lawrence, SEMA Chairman of the Board
James Lawrence

In a speech touching on the things that most matter in life, Lawrence noted that “we’re doing a lot more than business this week. Connections are being made, dreams are being realized, lives are being changed. SEMA has become a celebration of passion for cars and trucks.”

Celebrating an Industry
(Industry Banquet)
Mike Spagnola, SEMA president and CEO
Mike Spagnola

Recalling the high school mentors who sparked his automotive interests, Spagnola summed up the spirit of the industry and the SEMA Show that represents it. “This has been an amazing week, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by honoring the incredible accomplishments of our industry trailblazers,” he said.

Chairman’s Service Award
(Industry Banquet)

Bestowed at the SEMA Chairman of the Board’s discretion, the Chairman’s Service Award is unique in that it’s not given out every year. SEMA Chairman James Lawrence presented the award to WD-40 for the company’s ongoing support of SEMA Cares, the association’s charity arm. The award was accepted by WD-40 Sales Manager Shannon Edwards (left). WD-40 has built several prized vehicles that have raised more than $2 million for children and people in need at auction. They include a bright-yellow 50th Anniversary ’67 Camaro, a Foose-designed ’12 Dodge Challenger, a ’53 Ford F-100, a ’14 F-150, a two-toned ’10 Camaro and a custom
’11 Mustang.

GEN-III Innovator of the Year
(Industry Banquet)
Mike Burns, ValvoMax
Mike Burns

The Gen-III award is presented annually to an entrepreneurial individual, age 40 or younger, who creates industry breakthroughs. The CEO of ValvoMax, Mike Burns (center) is the inventor of a closed oil change system that removes the hassle, time and mess involved in a traditional oil change. Not only has his innovation garnered the approval of DIY oil changers everywhere, but multiple patents as well. Most of all, Burns exemplifies a constant spirit of thinking outside the box to invent and make things better. Burns is flanked by last year’s winner Matt Kossoff (right) and emcee Jarod DeAnda.

Influencer of the Year
(Industry Banquet)
Larry Chen, Photographer/Videographer
Larry Chen

Emcee Jarod DeAnda presents a surprised Larry Chen (right) his award. A world-renowned automotive photojournalist from Los Angeles, Chen’s YouTube channel boasts 424,000 subscribers and counting. His Instagram account tops even that with 684,000 followers. From drifting to Baja racing to everything automotive, Chen travels the globe to document and advocate for grassroots car culture. “For me, this is about doing my best and playing my part in saving the culture that we love so much,” he said.

Person of the Year
(Industry Banquet)
Josh Poulson, Auto Additions Inc.
Josh Poulson

The SEMA Person of the Year award is among the association’s highest honors, recognizing exceptional volunteerism on behalf of the industry. This year the award went to SEMA Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) Council Chair Josh Poulson (right). The owner of Auto Additions, Poulson is well known for his industry leadership contributions, philanthropy and overall positive influence. He will be profiled in the next edition of SEMA News.

Industry Icons
(Kickoff Breakfast)
Jarod DeAnda, Brian Scotto, Ken Block

Brian Scotto (middle) and Ken Block (right) talk everything “Electrikhana” with industry personality Jarod DeAnda, who emceed the Tuesday-morning SEMA Show Kickoff Breakfast. The annual breakfast was freshened for 2022 to serve up several new award presentations.

Channel Partner of the Year
(Kickoff Breakfast)
Turn 14 Distribution Inc.
Turn 14

These are not the first SEMA Show honors for Turn 14 Distribution, which took the former Distributor of the Year award in 2021. This year, Turn 14 was again recognized for its innovation as a channel partner, along with its three warehouses across the United States, deep supplier inventories, and excellent technical support. The company is also a highly engaged sponsor of events and related sales drivers. Director of Purchasing Mike Malloy (left) and Director of Sport Compact Sales Jeremy Sassaman accepted the award.

Manufacturer of the Year
(Kickoff Breakfast)
Baja Designs Inc.
Baja Designs

In a year of difficult production and supply capacities, Baja Designs continued to bring new and improved products to market while keeping up with demand. With excellent product support and high-quality packaging, the company has also achieved one of the market’s lowest return rates. The manufacturer is also known for its consistent, high-quality new product announcements and its high profile at consumer and industry events. CEO Trent Kirby (left) and Sales Manager Brennan Scully accepted the award.

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