Leading Our Future
Highlights From the 2017 SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet
Famed automotive TV personality Jessi Combs (left) and motorsports announcer Jarod DeAnda emceed the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, held Thursday night of the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The annual event honors the innovators, leaders and legends who embody the industry’s forward thinking and high standards of achievement.
More than 3,000 automotive aftermarket professionals gathered on day three of the 2017 SEMA Show for the industry’s preeminent awards ceremony, the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, held at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas. The annual Thursday-evening banquet is where specialty-equipment business is set aside for a moment to allow innovators, leaders and legends to take center stage as they are recognized for their contributions to the $42 billion industry.
The banquet is a staple event of the four-day SEMA Show, with the 2017 gala titled “You: Leading Our Future,” in keeping with this year’s SEMA Show’s overall forward-thinking emphasis. Capably emceed by automotive TV personality Jessi Combs and motorsports announcer Jarod DeAnda, the awards event included opening “state of the industry” remarks by SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki and SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. In addition, banquet attendees rocked to the special entertainment stylings of Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl band, featuring legendary musicians and car enthusiasts Jimmie Vaughan, Michael Anthony and Billy F Gibbons.
The most celebrated names of the night, however, were those recognized with SEMA’s highest honors, including SEMA Person of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year, the Gen-III Innovator Award, Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year and Warehouse Distributor of the Year. The ceremonies were also punctuated with tributes to Doug Evans, GiGi Carleton and Barry Meguiar, this year’s inductees to the SEMA Hall of Fame, which honors pioneers and innovators who have played pivotal roles in the advancement of the automotive aftermarket.
Setting the evening’s tone, Board Chairman Kawasaki said: “SEMA started with only a handful of hot-rod parts manufacturers but now has expanded into a [$42-billion] industry that includes every imaginable part and application. That diversity is what makes us strong. And a strong future means continuing to expand, energize, explore and, most importantly, embrace change as we roll forward.”
Kawasaki then related the inspirational story of IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt, who became paralyzed after an accident. Undaunted, Schmidt remained a team owner and a champion of new retrofit technologies to assist disabled drivers. His re-engineered Corvette by Arrow Electronics, which was displayed in SEMA Central throughout the Show, has enabled Schmidt to drive 152 mph at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
|SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting also addressed the attendees, touching on the industry’s trailblazers and the latest generation of young enthusiast-creators poised to take it in new directions.||SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki delivered opening remarks highlighting the association’s priorities as well as the industry’s greatest aspirations for the future.
|Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl band—featuring legendary musicians and car enthusiasts Jimmie Vaughan, Michael Anthony and Billy F Gibbons—rocked the awards ceremony.|
Introducing Schmidt to the audience, Kawasaki concluded: “I truly believe every one of you in this room has a unique set of experiences that provides your own leadership potential. Tonight, I want to ask each one of you: How are you leading our future? After all, it’s your hard work, passion and innovation that make our industry great.”
Recalling the evening’s energy, Kersting observed: “The people in this industry are driven by passion, and that’s what makes it so exciting and innovative. It was great to be able to take some time during the SEMA Show to recognize and honor individuals who have made an especially important impact. As I put my banquet remarks together, I couldn’t help but think about the reality that our industry is going through a generational turnover. The evening was a great tribute to industry trailblazers as well as a celebration of the next generation of leadership stepping forward with the vision and creativity that will serve a future segment of ‘gearheads’ and enthusiasts.”
The following is the roster of the banquet’s award recipients, with the exception of John Johnson of The Spartan Group, SEMA Person of the Year, who will be profiled in next month’s issue of SEMA News.
Gen-III Innovator of the Year: Pete Gonzales, Darkside Scientific
The Gen-III Innovator Award recognizes those who demonstrate creative, game-changing ways of doing business or who are producing novel products or services that are launching new trends. Limited to candidates age 40 and under, it celebrates the industry’s diversity of generations.
The creator of LumiLor Light Emitting Coating, Pete Gonzales is passionately driving the industry into the future, innovating in such a remarkable way as to garner attention and recognition not only in the United States but also abroad. His invention leverages “electro-luminescence” technology to create a paint that actually emits light, as opposed to reflecting it. In fact his company’s LumiLor product is the world’s first and only electro-luminescent paint. The light that LumiLor paint emits is visible at long distances and can even been seen through fog, snow and smoke.
The sky is literally the limit for this technology, as it’s already being used by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industries to create light-emitting exterior markings on its jets. LumiLor is also being used successfully in the automotive, architectural, transportation and emergency lighting industries. Of course, proper training for use of this extraordinary product is crucial, and Gonzales has also designed, developed and implemented a training program that makes understanding and applying this new technology easy and accessible for all who desire to utilize it.
Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year: Considine Sales & Marketing
A new product, increasing sales, a brand-new company, or possible expansion to new territory—those are just a few reasons aftermarket businesses seek out the skills of a manufacturer’s representative agency. Whatever the reason for turning to a manufacturers’ rep, however, the bottom-line goal is always the same: getting products into the hands of consumers.
With this particular award, SEMA recognizes the efforts of an agency that exceeds expectations with integrity and professionalism.
Looking at the longevity of its relationships alone, it’s readily apparent why Considine Sales & Marketing was named the Rep Agency of the Year. Some of the firm’s relationships with manufacturers span 10, 20 and even 30 years. In fact, Considine has represented one line, McGard, for 47 years—nearly as long as SEMA has been around. Such long-standing relationships with mainstay industry brands demonstrate the rep agency’s high level of service.
Warehouse Distributor of the Year: Meyer Distributing
Today’s consumers expect immediate product availability, which means a warehouse distributor (WD) has to make parts move fast. Keeping the supply chain running smoothly between manufacturer and customer requires a greater degree of skill and management than ever before. That’s why every year SEMA honors those who go above and beyond industry standards in the name of distribution.
Meyer Distributing began as a small, family-owned business, and even though the WD has grown from one location with 15 employees to more than 800 employees in 65 locations, it has maintained a highly personal approach to business.
In fact, the company prides itself on utilizing its own fleet to deliver to all 48 contiguous states, keeping those all-important personal connections with customers. Moreover, the WD strives to maintain a family feel among employees as well.
As Meyer president and CEO Mike Braun (pictured middle) put it, “We never lose sight of where we came from.”
Manufacturer of the Year: MagnaFlow
The Manufacturer of the Year award honors a company that demonstrates exceptional performance working with warehouse distributors, manufacturers’ representatives and others in the reseller community. The recipient is chosen for high standards of business practices, innovative processes and customer satisfaction that make it a leader in its field.
MagnaFlow is an exhaust-system manufacturer on the move. While other companies may be downsizing, MagnaFlow has done the exact opposite, investing more than a million dollars in new corporate facilities to house its manufacturing, R&D and corporate offices.
MagnaFlow leadership believes in investing in the company and its people. In fact, for many years, the company has been voted one of the top 10 best places to work in Orange County, California, a county boasting more than 91,000 companies. Moreover, the manufacturer’s track record with its industry peers is just as high-performance, as evidenced by multiple top manufacturer awards from a variety of distributors.
SEMA Hall of Fame: Doug Evans
The award banquet’s festivities were also interspersed with the on-stage introductions of the 2017 SEMA Hall of Fame inductees, who were officially installed this past July. The first to be again congratulated for his achievements was Doug Evans (pictured middle), owner of High Performance Advisors, and the immediate past chairman of the SEMA Board of Directors.
Evans has had an impressive career in the automotive industry, having spent more than 30 years as a senior executive at various publishing houses. However, it is his leadership and activism that have especially distinguished him.
As the immediate past SEMA Chairman of the Board, Evans guided the association on initiatives focused on youth outreach and legislation. He’s also served as chairman of the Save the Salt Coalition, is an advisor to the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, and has volunteered as a judge for the annual SEMA Show Launch Pad competition. He has been a tireless advocate for the industry on legislative and regulatory matters.
SEMA Hall of Fame: GiGi Carleton
Many in the industry are familiar with Robert E. Petersen, the 1981 SEMA Hall of Fame inductee responsible for launching many of the largest and most successful automotive magazine titles, including Motor Trend and Hot Rod.
What few people realize is that GiGi Carleton (pictured middle) worked side-by-side with Petersen and his wife Margie for nearly 50 years to create what was once called The Petersen Empire—and she can recall the earliest SEMA Shows, when exhibitors set up card tables and displayed handmade signs.
Today, Carleton serves as the president of the Robert E. Petersen Foundation, where she is committed to carrying on Petersen’s legacy in the automotive industry and philanthropic activities.
SEMA Hall of Fame: Barry Meguiar
Passionate about cars and president of the car-care company founded by his grandfather in 1901, Barry Meguiar (pictured left) took the company from limited sales to a popular mainstream consumer brand.
But more importantly for the industry, Meguiar’s fun, family-oriented car shows and “Car Crazy TV” program, combined with his signature smile and infectious excitement for vehicles, has helped invigorate American car culture everywhere.
In addition to being one of the earliest exhibitors at the SEMA Show, Meguiar has given viewers an insider taste of the trade-only Show by filming “Car Crazy TV” from the annual event.
The impact of his work can’t be overstated: He has interviewed possibly every notable car or truck person imaginable, and he has spread the car crazy bug throughout the world.
A Night of Honorees
During the awards ceremony, honorees of SEMA’s councils and networks were also applauded for their outstanding work and lasting contributions within their industry segments.
Custom Automotive Network: SEMA joined with CAN (formerly the Performance Warehouse Association) in congratulating Les Rudd of Bob Cook Sales, who was named CAN Person of the Year.