By Linda Spencer
As in 2016, participating SEMA companies will exhibit for two days. The first day is for trade buyers only, while the SEMA section was open to trade and consumers on the second day. “Custom Show Emirates (CSE) really displayed the passion for motorsports and customizing in the Middle East, and the buyers who attended the show had great interest in our products,” said Lake Speed Jr. (left), general manager of Driven Racing Oil LLC. “I think that this is going to be a fast-growing marketplace for SEMA-member companies.”
Registration is now open for two SEMA overseas business development trips taking place this spring in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] (March 28–April 1), and Australia (May 23–28)
These two markets/regions were chosen given their top ranking as good prospects for SEMA members based on the following:
- Sizable population interested in customizing.
- Discretionary income to afford U.S. specialty-equipment products.
- Vehicle parc (total number of vehicles in the country/region) that fits a manufacturer’s product line or one for which they are willing to make product.
- Legal/regulatory environment allowing customization, or in the case of emerging markets, a willingness by the local government to engage in discussions on developing laws governing modification.
The 2017 SEMA Middle East Business Development Conference, to be held March 28–April 1, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, will provide participating SEMA members the opportunity to get their products in front of buyers from the UAE and other countries in the region.
March 28: Briefing with U.S. government officials, buyer panel.
March 29: Visit accessory, performance and off-road retailers and wholesalers. Evening networking event with buyers.
March 30: SEMA section at the Custom Show Emirates open only to pre-vetted trade buyers.
March 31: SEMA measuring session demonstration. SEMA section open to all.
April 1: Trip officially over.
Federal and state grants are available to defray the costs—which include a turnkey booth at the Custom Show Emirates, four nights’ hotel and meals—for qualified attendees.
Five reasons to consider the Middle East markets:
1. Deep pockets. The UAE has one of the world’s highest per capita (ranking sixth worldwide) disposable incomes, and thus the funds to pursue their hobbies.
2. Important market for U.S.-built vehicles. The Saudi Arabian market is the fifth top market for U.S. vehicle sales and the UAE market ranks eighth. All six of the GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) are in the top 20 destinations for U.S.-made vehicles.
3. Positive perception of U.S. products and culture. In a nod to the popularity of U.S. culture in the region and the recognition that the UAE has a strong enthusiast base, the Fast and Furious 7 was filmed in the UAE. TV car customizing shows, such as Pimp My Ride and Overhaulin’, attracted big audiences
4. Very strong car culture and also a multi-car-per-family culture. The UAE has the most motorsports facilities per capita in the world. Off-roading (primarily on sand) is a national pastime, and the UAE’s national day would not be complete without an all-out classic-car display and parade including customized vehicles.
5. Similar to the United States market, light trucks are extremely popular in the Middle East. In fact, half of the passenger vehicles on Middle East roads are light trucks, with the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Ford Explorer and Jeep among the top-selling SUVs. Top pickups include the Toyota HiLux, Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series, among others.
Hellwig Products was represented by Mike Hallmark (right), West Coast international sales manager, and Melanie Hellwig White (second from right), vice president at the 2016 event. The company manufactures suspension load- and sway-control products for trucks, SUVs, musclecars and RVs. “Buyers in the market were really excited to have us there, and we had great turnouts at our events,” White said. “We walked away with great leads.”
The second trip is to Melbourne, Australia, May 23–28, 2017. The GearHeads Down Under program includes a table-top display attended by pre-vetted buyers; visiting retailers, distributors and installers of performance, styling and off-road products; attending a briefing with the U.S. Department of Commerce; and a session with New Zealander and Australian print and TV enthusiast media. Federal and state grants are available to defray the costs—which include a turnkey booth, four nights’ hotel and meals—for qualified attendees.
Five reasons to consider Australia:
1. Well established, passionate car culture. Australians and New Zealanders are diehard enthusiasts. It is not farfetched to estimate that consumers in these two markets spend more per capita than Americans do.
2. On a per-capita basis, it is one of the world’s 20 richest countries. Unemployment remains low, and Australia hasn’t had a recession in more than 24 years.
3. The Australian and New Zealand specialty market covers all of the niches found in the United States. This includes off-roading, street performance, racing, styling, classic/vintage and car care.
4. Positive perception of U.S. products. The United States enjoys a strong reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality, well-engineered automotive aftermarket and speciality products. Thanks to a free-trade agreement betweeen the United States and Australia, U.S. products enter the market duty-free. Australia is also an important market for U.S.-built vehicles; currently, Australia imported 42,000 vehicles from the United States in the first eight months of this year, making it the sixth highest destination for U.S.-built vehicles.
5. Half of the vehicles sold annually in Australia are SUVs and pickups (or "utes" as they call them).