In the specialty automotive industry, we can point to hundreds of successful businesses that were built through the energy and vision of a once-young person who persisted through a career lasting decades. And it’s equally common to find that, as entrepreneurs secure their businesses, they begin to concern themselves with the problem of staying relevant in a changing world and how their businesses might benefit from the next generation of innovators.
The efforts and outcomes secured by SEMA’s government affairs office in Washington, D.C., are among the association’s most highly rated benefits, according to our annual member satisfaction survey. While the D.C. team is a key factor, success is a function of each of you taking part and putting your strength into the effort—helping us make a deep impact on the policy discussions and decisions that are critical to the future of our industry.
With the arrival of July, SEMA initiates a new fiscal year and budget. It’s an exciting and challenging time for both the association staff and the Board of Directors. As we embark on another financial cycle, we can report that good management and long-term financial planning have put the association in position to invest in tools and programs to help members with product development, vehicle technology integration, regulatory compliance and delivering digital marketing content to the world. We are pressing forward today with significant services and tools that will benefit members for years to come. But you have to use the programs to get the benefits!
We think most SEMA members would agree that we’ve arrived at an interesting time for the automotive industry. Supply has outpaced demand for oil; the dollar is one of the stronger currencies internationally; and automotive manufacturing is in a growth mode.
That’s very different from 2009, when new-car sales were down, the dollar was weak and oil prices were $100 a barrel and climbing. SEMA members had to adapt, be innovative and efficient, and had to look for alternate sources of revenue. It also sparked some of our members to recognize significant opportunities in expanding to overseas markets.
One of the more challenging quests in the specialty aftermarket is to attract, hire and develop qualified employees—people who will fill a range of roles and help our members’ businesses transition to the future. This is especially challenging as new technologies emerge at an increasing speed.
That’s why the SEMA board, councils and staff are focused on new ways to equip the next generation to find jobs and grow careers in our industry. These efforts can be divided into three fronts—development training and experiences for existing members; establishing better ties and pipelines with schools where students are already studying automotive fields; and establishing pathways to allow even more young people to aim for a career in the specialty segment of the industry.
It’s only April, but contracts for SEMA Show booth space are rapidly accumulating, and the staff has been busy preparing for booth selection, planning innovative Show features and securing discount programs to help our participants avoid unnecessary costs. With all this activity afoot, the 2015 SEMA Show is looking to be another outstanding event. That’s why now is the time to be laying the foundation for a successful SEMA Show, especially for exhibitors.
One important deadline is coming up April 6, which is the cutoff date for exhibitors to register for Priority Booth Selection. This year’s priority selection process begins...
The first-ever SEMA Ignited event may have looked like a great party and car show, but Ignited was actually much more than that. The event was a way to show off the incredible cars, trucks and specialty equipment that our industry brings to the SEMA Show. It was also a means to interact with consumers, both on-site and through the media. The immediate social-media coverage was awesome, and now we have the longer-lead media pieces coming to fruition.
One important consumer-facing program is set to debut March 8—the one-hour, SEMA-sponsored Velocity Channel special called “SEMA Battle of the Builders.”
Those who have attended the SEMA Show are likely aware of SEMA’s collaborative relationship with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). SEMA’s partnership with CU-ICAR is now in its fifth year. It’s been a great partnership that yields useful tools to help SEMA members cope with vehicle technology and advance their products. Clemson has state-of-the-art equipment and top engineering talent to stay abreast of the newest automotive technologies. By connecting CU-ICAR and its graduate-level students and professors with the aftermarket, SEMA is shaping world-class research into practical tools for our member companies.
One example is the just-released “Ride Guide,” a publication that puts more science into the matter of wheel/tire performance and selection. With support from SEMA and the Wheel & Tire Council (WTC), CU-ICAR recently conducted months of testing to determine the performance differences of varying wheel and tire combinations.
It will be no surprise to those who attended: The 2014 SEMA Show bounced off the rev limiter like a street machine on nitrous, posting historic levels of attendance, exhibitor numbers and total footprint. Growth is good, but the key measure of success will always be to create a comprehensive marketplace where quality exhibitors can do business with quality buyers. In that regard, it seems that the 2014 Show served well as a springboard for success for most in the industry in the coming year.
As usual, we’ll be doing research to quantify what worked and what is changing as well as soliciting new ideas and ways to improve. To those of you who returned our post-Show survey, we extend our sincerest thanks in advance for your thoughts and comments.
We’re pleased to report that the SEMA Data Co-op has surpassed critical mass and is rolling! Your industry-owned product data repository now has more than 350 brands covering more than 2.7 million live part numbers. Every week, we see thousands of data exports pulled down by data receivers—our industry’s resellers and retailers. That means that more products are getting more exposure, leading to increased sales.
That’s great news. Meanwhile, the marketplace continues to evolve. These days, more than 50% of all sales begin with online research, and studies show that a product listing that offers an image is more than twice as likely to sell as one with no image. Rich data—images with multiple views, video files, audio files—is reported to be as much as 17 times more likely to prompt a sale.