By Linda Spencer
SEMA-Style International Networking: The 2019 SEMA Export Fair
|Networking with fellow SEMA members and top trade buyers and a review of best practices by legal, digital and trade experts rounded out the two-day event that was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The biannual 2019 SEMA Export Fair attracted both experienced exporters and those new to selling abroad.|
The SEMA Garage was the venue for the fourth SEMA Export Fair. SEMA members from 18 states traveled to Diamond Bar, California, for the two-day event. It included a series of sessions on hot exporting topics, such as the preferred method of communicating with overseas buyers (messaging apps rather than email is the way to go); how to find counterfeit versions of your products and remove them from global e-commerce sites; and tips from intellectual property rights attorneys. Four panels featuring top buyers provided overviews of the opportunities for selling into the racing and off-road markets in international markets, including Latin America, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
SEMA export attendees were able to meet one on one with the participants during the Fair portion of the event. It was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which sent a number of officials to the event to provide exporting assistance to attendees. In some good news, an extension of SEMA’s partnership with the U.S. government was announced. American companies traveling with SEMA in the upcoming year will be able to receive U.S. government grants to defray the cost of participating in the trade missions.
SEMA News talked to several Export Fair participants.
“International expansion is a company-wide goal for Supreme Suspensions,” said Christy Hill of Supreme Suspensions. “The SEMA Export Fair eased our apprehensions, helped in facilitating a path, and educated us in intellectual property and trademark law. We were even given the opportunity to meet with international direct buyers. It was a great experience, and we’re already looking forward to attending the next one.”
Jim Ford, Madico international sales manager, also reiterated the benefits of the Export Fair. “The export fair was very helpful. It brought to light the importance of patent and trademark registration in key global markets. The digital marketing and payment presentation were also eye-opening, and clearly demonstrated that this channel is no longer just the domain of B2C players. We hope to take advantage of similar workshops in the future.”
Additionally, “The SEMA Export Fair was an extremely valuable opportunity as a newly hired international sales representative for my organization,” added Rosana Del Rio, Design Engineering Inc. international account manager. “The fair provided me the opportunity to network with speakers and buyers from some of the countries I am interested in doing future business with. The presentations were informative and aligned with the vision and direction I am going with my business plan. I highly recommend this event to anyone interested in learning more about doing business with international buyers and understanding the dynamics beyond purchasing.”
Ed Hamburger, president of Hamburger’s Superchargers Inc./Specialty Vehicle Engineering Inc. also noted, “I felt the Export Fair was very worthwhile attending, especially since we participated in the United Arab Emirates and Australia SEMA business trips earlier this year.” “It helped clear up a number of questions we had after returning from both trips.
“The seminars provided valuable information regarding IP protection and understanding the benefits of using Alibaba, and interacting with the various global representatives gave me more insight on how we should approach each of the regions from a marketing perspective. I would definitely attend again!”
The accompanying photos and captions in this article show some of the highlights of the 2019 SEMA Export Fair event.
|SEMA CEO and President Chris Kersting (facing the camera) opened the 2019 SEMA Export Fair, held recently at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California. Nearly 125 SEMA members, international trade buyers, export experts, intellectual property legal advisors and U.S. government officials spent two days discussing best exporting practices, identifying top markets and networking at the two-day biannual international event.|
|SEMA’s Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs Daniel Ingber (right) moderated a panel of intellectual property rights attorneys specializing in patent and trademark protection. Also on the panel were Rachel Saltzman (second right) of the U.S. Government International Trade Administration’s Office of Intellectual Property Rights, as well as four trademark and patent attorneys. SEMA members took advantage of the opportunity to meet one on one with panel members.|
|Buyers from six countries, including regions such as the Middle East and Australia as well as North and South America, participated in the 2019 SEMA Export Fair. They participated in country/regional panel discussions, and time was set aside both days of the Export Fair for one-on-one discussions between the trade buyers and SEMA members.|
|The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) was once again a co-sponsor of the 2019 SEMA Export Fair. Liz Couch, an economist with the International Trade Administration’s auto team, spoke to the group. An extension for an additional year of SEMA’s Market Development Cooperator Program grant was announced at the Fair, enabling qualified participants on the 2020 SEMA trip to the Middle East (which will include the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) and a fall 2020 trip to Scandinavia to receive U.S. government grants to defray the cost of participating. The DOC has more than 100 U.S. export assistance centers around the country and in more than 70 markets abroad—a good and often overlooked resource. The participants were provided with the names and contact information for their local DOC officials to begin taking advantage of those resources, beginning with a one-on-one meeting with a local U.S. government official on the resources the department provides.|
|A dozen top trade buyers from Latin America (Colombia, Argentina and Peru), Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Australia met one on one with participants.|
Mike Spagnola (third from right), SEMA’s vice president of OEM and Product Development Programs, led one of three tours of the SEMA Garage held during the Export Fair. Among the highlights of the tour was an overview of the Measuring Session program. “When new vehicles are brought onto the market, whether they’re international or domestic, we bring them in and invite manufacturers to come for a measuring session,” Spagnola explained. “When that vehicle hits the marketplace, all those accessories are ready to go. Two vehicles are currently available to SEMA members to measure through the international vehicle-measuring program. The program provides members with vehicles popularly accessorized internationally but not sold in the United States. We currently have a Nissan Patrol Y61 and ’16 Australian-spec Ford Ranger 4x4 double cab. With the Ford Ranger’s entrance into the U.S. market this year, members have an opportunity to view the differences between the rest-of-the-world Ranger and the model sold in the United States. Members are welcome to schedule a time to measure those trucks at the Garage or at your facility.”
|Daniel Zhou (left) spoke on WeChat and its uses in business. WeChat is the primary messaging app in China. It is a robust program providing the ability for subscribers to pay within the app (WeChat pay) and to access business functions to promote and sell products directly through the app. Other popular global messaging services covered during the session included WhatsApp, Ding (most popular in China), Line (primarily Japan), and Telegram.|
|Seminars on selling to Latin America (pictured), Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Australia were featured at the SEMA Export Fair. Each panel included buyers focused on supplying the local racing market, while others specialized in supplying local off-road enthusiasts. The panel of trade buyers pictured was moderated by manufacturer’s rep and SEMA member Juan Jose Rebaza (far right) of ASAP Trading. Rebaza is based in San Diego, California, and frequently travels to Central and South America.|
|Josh Halpern, the founder of Going to Global and a former U.S. Department of Commerce official, led a discussion on digital literacy and global e-commerce platforms. Among the topics discussed was the growth of messaging apps abroad for conducting business and how they are often preferred to emails among international buyers. Among the most popular apps discussed both for messaging and for additional business purposes were WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (global), We Chat (China), Ding (China), Vibe (Russia), and Line (Japan).|
|Joel Molina of SGS spoke about regulations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Molina noted that his company manages compliance programs across Africa and the Middle East. He talked about Saleem-Saber, which is a program that was implemented last year in Saudi Arabia. Some automotive parts are included and are thus regulated, with the list based on product descriptions and HS codes, including fuel for standard and racing engines, seat belts, brakes, air filters and rearview mirrors. For parts included on the list, the local distributor is required to have the product tested and the correct paperwork completed. A list of automotive parts covered under the Saleem-Saber standards is available by contacting Linda Spencer via email at email@example.com. Molina also referenced a new automotive spare-parts standard in the United Arab Emirates. Details are still being worked out; contact Spencer for additional information on the developing standard for products such as seat belts and air filters.|
|Buyers met with SEMA members during the Fair portion of each day. The buyers represented some of the largest off-road and performance distributors and retailers in their respective markets.|
|Charlotte O’Roarke (left), owner of Accelerate Marketing Business Solutions and a SEMA member based in Canada, moderated the panel of trade buyers from her home country. With a population of 37 million, Canada is the number-one export market for U.S. automotive specialty-equipment manufacturers. “I believe that attending the SEMA Export Fair is well worth the time and cost, as it brings the automotive aftermarket from a worldwide prospective together,” noted O’Roarke. “This allows for a great discussion and exchange of information from everyone involved, including the many great speakers and subject matter experts lined up by the SEMA Export Fair team. It is an intense couple of days but being in a smaller environment at SEMA headquarters/SEMA Garage. You’re able to take it all in and go home with a lot of very helpful and useful information.”|
|Alibaba staff from the company’s U.S. and Chinese offices (pictured is Stephanie Yu from the company’s office in Hangzhou, China) conducted a hands-on workshop on how to use China’s mega e-commerce site’s intellectual property platform. The one-hour session provided participants with a step-by-step guide on how to actively monitor Alibaba (or its Tencent sister website) to search for and submit requests for the removal of products from vendors that are infringing on a rights holder’s trademark, copyright and/or patents. The company also released a draft guide outlining the so-called “takedown” process for removing counterfeits. Copies of the draft guide are available by contacting Linda Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|“The SEMA Export Fair is a great platform to meet some of the most qualified international buyers in one setting,” observed participant Christina Kwan from the reseller relations, marketing, PR department at Race Ramps (right). “I found the information sessions and panels very helpful in understanding the opportunities and differences in each market. The concentration in topics and information provided will further allow me to identify the best ways to market and communicate with each region as well. I look forward to attending this event again in the future. Overall, it was a very valuable experience.” This is the first time that Canadian warehouse distributors participated in the SEMA Export Fair. While the Canadian and other buyers typically visit the SEMA Show and/or PRI Trade Show, the more leisurely pace of the Export Fair provided a great opportunity to network either at the one-on-one meetings or at an In-N-Out Burger dinner or a happy hour held in conjunction with the event.|