SEMA Show 2017: Pointing to Our Future

SEMA News—January 2018

SEMA Show 2017: Pointing to Our Future

Chris Kersting

Chris KerstingThe 2017 SEMA Show was a great event in many ways and on many fronts. The most important measure of success is the value of the event to our industry members, and I’ve heard in recent weeks from many who felt that this was their best Show.

For SEMA as an association, the Show affords a great opportunity to take the temperature of the industry, in part through informal exchanges with many in the trade but also to conduct formal research through polls and intercept interviews. The information gained from these efforts will help us guide our activities in the coming year, make improvements to the Show and other programs, and sharpen our focus on the future. This year’s data is still being gathered and assembled, but certain aspects of the 2017 Show stood out as signs of progress.

For example, SEMA career-path and youth-engagement initiatives were well attended and broadly successful, as the Show provided a platform to enhance, showcase and scale up programs designed to attract young talent to our industry. This year, staff worked to grow the SEMA Student Program, and attendance was up sharply as more students and teachers from schools around the country took advantage of the opportunity to learn firsthand about careers in the automotive specialty aftermarket sector. Among other career-focused activities, visiting students attended a packed SEMA Launch Pad program, conveying the notion that in the automotive aftermarket, an entirely new business can be built by starting with just one great idea.

The SEMA Show has long featured advanced automotive technology, and that was especially true this year. It was promising to see our industry offering technology-driven products ranging from equipment that upgrades safety and connectivity to performance upgrades and rapid prototyping through scanners, 3D printers and the software to manage them. In the not-too-distant future, even more mastery of new technologies will be required as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) become more entrenched in automotive culture. A new SEMA-sponsored study, announced at the Show, highlights the opportunities created by this phenomenon and is available for members to download free at

The outstanding offerings of Show exhibitors provided buyer attendees with fuel for future business growth. Attendance was impressive and consistent with significantly higher buyer pre-registration going into the Show. Traditionally strong SEMA Show sections serving the performance, hot-rod, truck and tire segments all showed continued strong participation. To accommodate industry demand, the Performance Pavilion was expanded by 25%, creating space that allowed hundreds of mostly first-time exhibitors to display at the Show.

Some attendees might have noticed more emphasis on badge security this year, as there were fewer entrances to the Show floor and more engaged guards working the doors. While the increased security posed some challenges, we hope that any inconveniences experienced by attendees were minimal. What most attendees probably did not notice was a layered security plan that included several private companies plus close coordination with local, state and federal agencies. While the SEMA Show is our industry’s premier business marketplace, our first consideration is the safety and welfare of attendees. This year was a positive step to address evolving security matters.

The SEMA staff and many of our industry participants are already looking ahead to the 2018 SEMA Show. We all know that every Show is going to be a little bit different, with surprises to enjoy and obstacles to overcome. Based on the momentum from this year’s Show, we think the outlook is excellent.

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