This is the first of a two-part series focused on international activities at the SEMA Show. New this year was the addition of a fourth networking roundtable on Latin America, bringing together exhibitors and trade buyers from the region.
For just about as long as there have been cars around in the United States, so have there been gearheads—people who seek to personalize and improve upon their rides. Fast forward to 2019, and the phenomenon is now a $44.6 billion industry in the U.S. and many millions more abroad, as car culture has become an increasingly global phenomenon.
Australians have been modifying and personalizing their vehicles for nearly as long as enthusiasts have in the United States. Though it’s 8,000 miles from Melbourne to Los Angeles, Australia has long been an important export market for U.S. firms and remains so to this date. In a December 2018 SEMA survey of U.S.-based manufacturer members, Australia was the number-two export market for U.S. companies, trailing only Canada.
One hundred and fifty-seven SEMA-member companies have traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the association to take part in the SEMA Middle East Business Development Program and Custom Show Emirates trade show since the inaugural trip there in 2012. While certain trends, vehicle mixes and other factors have changed in the intervening eight years since the first trip, some fundamentals are consistent, including the following.
Home to the Baja 500 and a Grand Prix, Mexico is a country of nearly 130 million people, and it is an increasingly important destination for U.S. automotive specialty-equipment products. With a growing middle class (approximately 39% of the population has enough disposable income to own a vehicle, a computer and other “wants”), Mexican car enthusiasts are eager for U.S. products to enhance their off-road, motorsports and classic-car restoration experiences.
The SEMA Show is an increasingly international platform for companies to display their latest products and promote their brand awareness to not only a U.S. audience but also to buyers and media from 135 countries. In recognition of that global trend, a select group of 30 leading enthusiast media from 19 countries served as Global Media Awards (GMA) judges.
While Australia is a large country that has roughly the same land mass as the United States, approximately 85% of the population lives within 30 miles of the coast. That leaves huge tracts of sparsely populated land perfect for exploring, which has led to a vibrant and diverse 4x4 and off-road culture Down Under. Along with traditional off-road pursuits, such as trail driving and rock-crawling, Aussies also use modified pickups, 4x4s and utes (pickups) to get to mountain-biking or dirt-biking trails, access camping locations, or as work trucks on farms and in mines.
Representatives from 22 SEMA-member companies recently traveled to Melbourne, Australia, for the third annual SEMA Australia Business Development Conference. The week-long program in late May included exhibiting at the MotorEx Show, visiting accessory and performance businesses (including installers, retailers and distributors) and briefings with top buyers and U.S. government officials. The 2018 trip Down Under is the newest addition to SEMA’s overseas trade missions, which also include programs in the United Arab Emirates and China.
“The threat for the aftermarket will remain until VDAT achieves a broader, industry-wide legal judgment, banning all monopolistic action such as that taken by Porsche,” said Harald Schmidtke, VDAT’s managing director. “Without such a ruling, other vehicle manufacturers could well follow suit and thus greatly harm our industry.”
The 2018 trip to Abu Dhabi, held April 3–8, 2018, once again provided SEMA members with the opportunity to explore firsthand why the region is an important market for U.S. specialty-equipment companies. This year’s program, like the six before it, provided an opportunity for SEMA members to participate in a low-cost, efficient way to meet with pre-vetted buyers, exhibit in a turnkey booth at the largest specialty-equipment show in the region—the Custom Show Emirates (CSE)—tour aftermarket shops, and participate in a series of briefings, including an informative session with U.S. government officials in the region. To date, 149 SEMA member companies have traveled with SEMA to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).