By Sasha Johnson
I’ve been to many a convention in my amazing city of Las Vegas. However, I can honestly say I have never been to anything like SEMA. The Specialty Equipment Market Association was developed in 1963 by a group of small manufacturers that supplied performance equipment for premier hot rods. Over fifty years later, it has become the hottest and most exclusive ticket in town. SEMA is a trade-only event. Access into SEMA requires all individuals in attendance to be employed within the automotive aftermarket industry. It is an event that is completely catered to the people within the automotive or motorcycle industry, where the seeds of emerging trends are planted.
The experience begins just a few blocks away from the actual convention center, where the majority of the event is held. The Westgate Resort serves as the welcoming committee as it is the convention center’s closest neighbor. On my short trek from the Westgate’s parking garage to SEMA headquarters, I was treated to a Polaris Slingshot demo that was taking place between buildings. Never in my entire life have I seen the strip in this state of pure automotive power. As I approached the heart of the event, it seemed as if the showroom floor had neatly spilled out onto Paradise Road and Silver Drive.
Most of the Silver Drive lot had been converted into an obstacle course where spectators could watch or participate in truck jumps and burnouts. Hot Wheels really brought the heat this year with a huge showcase that wrapped around the temporary obstacle arena. They excelled at bringing some cherished childhood memories to life with the most mind-boggling toy cars recreated as fully-functional, life-size replicas. My favorite was the Darth Vader inspired car. I’m still not quite sure how to get into it, but it sure does look cool!
While most of the action-packed demos were happening out in front of the convention center, the most pristine classic cars were safely tucked inside. The shine coming off of some of these cars was absolutely blinding. My first stop inside the showroom was at the South Hall, where anything and everything to do with powersports and utility vehicles was situated.
The first trend I noticed going on around the show floor was the extremely popular Plasti Dip look. Everything from Jeeps, to 4×4 trucks, to Chargers, were sporting the textured flat-coloring. To be honest, I probably could have walked around this one hall all day long and still have not been able to see everything this one section of SEMA had to offer.
Then I was off to the Performance Pavilion where the Trulers booth was presenting their adhesive backed flexible rulers that are sure to give you a precise ruling every time. I noticed a lot of the displays here had a great car that featured their product, as well as an accompanying motorcycle to exemplify the diversity and versatility of their products. I slowly made my way through Hot Rod Alley, which also served as a bridge between the upper level of South and Central Hall. The central showroom floor was practically bursting with the newest gadgets, restorative products, and the largest performance models I’ve ever seen.
This place was an absolute dream for any automotive enthusiast in the industry. There were hundreds of vendors located throughout each showroom floor. Every nook and cranny of space had been dedicated to cars in some way. Race Deck Garage Floors was here with a nifty set of interlocking floor plates that can turn your run-of-the-mill garage into a professional looking auto shop. The pillars of the automotive business flanked the outer sections of the floor, as these areas provided ample space for companies like Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet.
There was so much to see here, it’s no wonder that the convention has a draw of over sixty thousand domestic and international buyers each year. That’s a far cry from its humble beginnings in the late sixties. There were only about a hundred official booths set up at the very first SEMA show. Now the event boasts a whopping two thousand exhibits, and the number has steadily climbed year after year. I definitely felt incredibly privileged to have had the chance to check out the largest annual automotive event that has also included the motorcycle industry and grown to be the top leader in all motor industry affairs.
Trulers at SEMA 2018!
SEMA can be an intimidating place for the first time exhibitor, not knowing what to expect. How many samples should I bring? Is everything set up correctly? Who is my target customer? After being through it now, I can tell you. It was a great experience! We found out what our next target audience is. (Besides custom paint.) With a ratio of 3:2, the fabricators out there came out strong. Once the product was in their hands, they got it!
Do I see SEMA 2019 on our future calendar? Definitely! Motorcycles are the perfect vehicle (no pun intended) to showcase both paint & fabrication and you can fit them in the booth better!
See you next year!