SEMA 2017: Leading Our Future
After 51 years, the SEMA Show has become many things. Once primarily a marketplace for hot-rod parts, the Show has grown to embrace all things automotive, commingling varied tastes, disciplines and business models—all under one roof. It’s the one place in the world where you’ll find a customized Lamborghini sitting next to an outrageous hot rod, flanked by a 1,000hp Camaro and a custom Harley. With 12 distinctly different segments represented, the SEMA Show creates crossover possibilities and an energy far greater than the sum of its parts. Face-to-face conversations between buyers, builders and manufacturers, young and old, leads to sharing ideas, tools and technologies that will play out in surprising ways in the years to come.
But more than anything, this year’s Show was about the future. Exhibitors offering cutting-edge rapid prototyping equipment, including 3D printers, laser scanners and the software to run them were well represented. And unexpected new products, such as paint that can be electrically illuminated, stunning printed wraps and protective films were accompanied by the newly engineered car-care products needed to keep the finishes of the future looking new.
Perhaps most significant was that the 2017 SEMA Show provided an early opportunity to better acquaint the industry with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that will become commonplace in the next five years, and the growth opportunities these technologies present.
By all accounts, the Show was one of the best in memory. By the time Friday rolled around and another SEMA Show was in the books, hundreds of upbeat exhibitors had already purchased exhibit space for 2018. See you next year!
A brand-new feature—the SEMA Show Reveal—came to life Monday night at the 2017 SEMA Show, providing an early preview of some of the most significant vehicle debuts of the year. The event provided media with early access to outstanding cars and top builders, who were on hand to discuss their work and how their plans and visions came to life. Spotlighted builders included the likes of Ryan Friedlinghaus, Brad DeBerti, Chip Foose, Alan Johnson, Dave Kindig, Tommy Pike and Kyle Tucker. After a long day of setting up booth displays, exhibitors enjoyed the Show—plus music and a catered meal—as vehicles rolled across the stage. Here, emcee Kevin Oeste (left) interviewed Kenji Sumino, president of GReddy, about the ’17 550hp GReddy Mk7 VW GTI on stage.
The Future Is Here
Nearly 3,000 products were entered into the New Products Showcase this year, proving once again that the automotive aftermarket is one of the most richly productive and wildly imaginative segments of the economy. The New Products Showcase is a top destination for industry buyers, who typically make the highly organized section of the Show their first stop. Each year, products range from the profound to the prosaic, but make no mistake: each entry in the New Products Showcase represents an idea that someone is betting on. Winners of the New Product Awards for 2017 can be found on p. 52 of this issue.
Google “SEMA Show,” and you’ll see more than 2.7 million results come up in less than a second. No wonder. With more than 3,000 registered media professionals in attendance, the Show generates a huge spike in coverage—especially from online platforms and social media. That’s at least partly because top engineers, custom-car builders and talented designers reserve a space and time at the SEMA Show year after year to reveal their latest creations. Often, the cars have been in the works for years, finally making their debuts in the most newsworthy setting possible. Shown here are hundreds of reporters, photographers, bloggers and videographers jostling for space as the 1,600hp ’19 Hennessey Performance Venom F5 was unveiled. The car is slated for trials to document a top speed of 301 mph, which would make it the fastest road car in the world.
No stranger to the SEMA Show, Jay Leno was in good company, as more than 100 celebrated sports figures, race-car drivers, custom-car builders and TV personalities were active at the Show, making the SEMA Show a version of “celebrity central” for the week. Leno obliged his fans by signing autographs, making stage appearances and serving as the SEMA Cruise Grand Marshal. This year marks the first time that the legendary comedian and prodigious car collector brought his own car-care product line to the Show, holding down a booth in the Grand Lobby.
You Are Here!
The 2017 SEMA Show was, by all accounts, one of the best-attended Shows in memory. With exhibitor demand higher than ever and space at a premium, Show operations executives expanded the Performance Pavilion by 25%—space that was quickly filled with exhibitors. Buyer participation was strong all week, as evidenced by foot traffic on the Show floor. One metric—hotel room nights purchased through the SEMA block—was up 6% in 2017, with a substantial increase in attendees opting to stay through Friday night to attend the SEMA Cruise and Ignited.
Innovation On Display
The SEMA Show has long been a source of innovational surprises. While the wheel industry is known as a leading indicator of trends in manufacturing, style, design and color, the automotive aftermarket as a whole is conspicuously inventive, original and varied. This year’s Show included a notable increase in awareness of safety features known as ADAS, which coincided with the release of a new SEMA research report that highlights opportunities for SEMA-member companies. Driven by growing consumer interest in safety performance products, this expanding, high-margin market is opening doors for new product innovations and business opportunities. The “Advanced Vehicle Technology Opportunity Study” is available for download free to SEMA members at www.sema.org/research.
The 2017 SEMA Awards Banquet drew a packed house Thursday night, with more than 6,100 tickets ordered. Attendees came to learn the identity of the SEMA Person of the Year and winners of other awards, and most stayed to witness Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl band, featuring legendary musicians and car enthusiasts Jimmie Vaughan, Michael Anthony and Billy F Gibbons. As the evening drew to a close, the stage area turned into a mosh pit as the band captivated the audience, pulling diners out of their chairs and up on their feet.
An Annual Parade of Craftsmanship
Just prior to the SEMA Cruise, top SEMA Show vehicle builders assembled their cars as the third annual SEMA Battle of the Builders competition neared culmination. This year, some 303 builders entered the competition, ranging in age from 18 to 73 and providing the highest-quality field anyone could remember. The field was narrowed down to the final 12, as shown here, before the top three were identified by a vote of the builders themselves. In the end, Troy Trepanier’s ’29 Ford Model A Tudor sedan edged out the amazing builds of fellow top-three finalists Alan Johnson (’32 Ford Tudor) and Troy Ladd (’36 Packard roadster) for the title. The three builders will be featured along with many other SEMA Show builders in a new episode of the TV special “SEMA: Battle of the Builders,” which will premiere on the Velocity Channel on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. To get air times and find out what actually happened, visit www.sema.org/botb.