SEMA at 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Automotive Passion

SEMA News—November 2013

CHRIS KERSTING

SEMA at 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Automotive Passion

 

Ed Iskendarian—one of the seven members of the original SEMA Board of Directors. 

Fifty years ago, in May of 1963 to be exact, a roomful of industry pioneers founded a trade association—the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association—and SEMA was born. As we celebrate the organization’s Golden Anniversary, what held true then is still true today: the association, with deep volunteer participation and guidance, is a reflection of the industry itself. Together we’re celebrating five decades of business perseverance, growth, innovation and success.

At a recent SEMA Installation Banquet I was noting some of the challenges that confront the industry and I read an excerpt from an industry trade publication: “We may wake up one morning soon and find there’s no one left with any reason to buy headers or manifolds or a host of other performance products designed to make a car perform better… We may also wake up and discover that a future generation of young people aren’t all that interested in the automobile because the excitement of it is gone—or maybe legislated away by safety and clean air regulations….”

The interesting thing about the excerpt? It was published in an industry trade magazine in January 1971! The headline reads “Does Our Industry Have Just 5 Years Left?”

The apparent answer: 5 years… and then some. In the ensuing decades, the industry has addressed challenges, adapted, evolved and generated the opportunities to not only survive, but thrive and grow. Today’s specialty-equipment market is 30 times the size it was when that article was penned.

In 1963 the association had no paid staff—whatever got done was the work of the industry volunteers who set the direction and undertook the projects of the association. The mission then was the same as the SEMA mission today—to help the members succeed and prosper. The difference is that today, we have a talented and dedicated staff, yet we deliver value because much of what we do is a collaboration with deeply committed industry volunteers.

It’s especially exciting to be celebrating SEMA’s 50th at this year’s SEMA Show. The Show represents our industry’s annual reunion of innovation, serving as the official finish line for new product development and introduction. The Show attracts a world of attendees to view the most impressive collection of automotive creativity, styling trends and performance advances gathered in one place at one time.

Like the industry itself, the SEMA Show this year will be a bit larger than in the days of our humble beginnings. The SEMA staff and volunteer leaders appreciate the Show’s growth—but our main focus is on making it a high-quality, high-value event for the industry. This year’s SEMA Show is no exception. We’ve actively educated both exhibitors and buyers on how to prepare. We’ve helped exhibitors learn how to promote their businesses, maximize exposure for the products they bring, and gain an expert understanding of trade show logistics. On the buyer side, we’ve conducted aggressive outreach to attract more buyers and to show them how they can be more productive in an expanded Show.

Another key productivity improver is the New Products Showcase. We’ve equipped the Showcase with bar code scanners to allow buyers to quickly capture unlimited new product information for easy follow-up. We’ve also improved and added features to the SEMA Show app, to put more info at the fingertips of more people.

All that’s left now is for you to get to the SEMA Show and take advantage of the business-building opportunities. And to help celebrate our 50th, when you see a badge indicating “Hall of Fame” or “Board Member” or “Council Select Committee,” be sure to thank the bearer for their service in helping the association help its members to succeed—50 year’s worth is something to appreciate. See you at the Show!

 

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