SEMA Middle East Program Expands Horizons for LTAA Members
LTAA select committee member Brant Combs (right) speaks with a buyer at Custom Show Emirates.
This past spring, 41 SEMA-member companies participated in SEMA’s four-day Middle East program in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The program featured an all-day measuring session with commonly customized vehicles not sold in the United States as well as a chance for participants to exhibit at the trade-only section of the Custom Show Emirates, network with international buyers and explore local shops. Among the participants were several active Light Truck Accessory Alliance (LTAA) members, who shared a few of their takeaways from the experience.
SEMA Member News: How did this program help you expand your global network?
Kathryn Reinhardt, MagnaFlow: This trip can open new doors to distributors you never knew existed. It can give you firsthand visibility of the consumer market and see the vehicles in action. It can also give you the confidence you need to export into a part of the world that you may not have thought you could reach.
Troy Wirtz, Dee Zee Inc: This was Dee Zee’s third year of participation. I’m confident that the shows and efforts from the SEMA staff are why Dee Zee is experiencing the success it is in the Middle East. Each year has brought on new prospects, but I’m particularly happy with how our existing relationships have grown. When you are partnering with someone on the other side of the world, trust has to be established for both parties. Global expansion is important to Dee Zee, and SEMA is a great organization to help meet these efforts!
SMN: What’s your take on the truck and off-road market in this region?
Brant Combs, ATC Truck Covers: We discovered that there is a significant American truck market for the 4x4 and off-road segment, and a couple of our products would work well there. The SEMA Middle East Conference set up introductions to the best buyers in the area for those products.
SMN: Were there any cultural challenges for doing business in the Middle East?
Brandon Seadorf, Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Allow USA: This was my first trip to the Middle East, and it was interesting how easy it was to work with customers and prospects there. The people are extremely nice and welcoming. The cities were safe, and it seems that the consumers and businesses embrace American products. Almost everyone I communicated with spoke great English, so there were no communication barriers at all.
Melanie White, Hellwig Products: There were a few social norms I had to change. I typically reach out to shake a hand, and there was once where a gentleman held his hand back and I caught the cue before I held out my hand. Other than that, it really was like doing business in the United States as a woman. If you have the answers to their questions or can take care of their business needs, being male or female isn’t an issue.
SMN: What do you think is a key for success in the Middle Eastern market?
Ruby Stratz, Keystone Automotive Operations: Based on my experience, the relationship with our customers is the key to success in this region. The Middle East is a fast-moving market with great opportunity for our industry.
SMN: What was the most beneficial part of your experience?
Erika Garcia, Bolt Locks: The SEMA team did a great job of organizing a schedule that allowed us to learn more about the Middle East market. The jobber visits were my favorite part. They helped us understand how there are a lot of businesses that are hungry for finding the latest technologies and high-quality, American-made products. The measuring session was also very important for us, as we can expand our product offering to include vehicles that are not offered in America.
Robert Park, Rigid Industries: Participating in SEMA’s international shows allows us to meet a lot of the local distributors and dealers all in one place. It helps us ensure we are aligning ourselves with the
SMN: Would you recommend this program to other members?
Brad Otoupalik, K&N Engineering: The SEMA Middle East trip and show in Abu Dhabi exceeded my expectations once again. Linda Spencer and SEMA have created a really unique vehicle to help U.S. companies, regardless if they are new to the market or are experienced. For those that are not taking advantage of the unique opportunity provided—you are being passed by competitors who are!
Next year’s Middle East trip will take place March 29–April 2, 2016. Registration for manufacturers will open in November 2015. For more information, visit www.sema.org/middleeast.