Article by Dmitriy Orlov. Photography by Corey Davis.
Most often the SEMA organization is known for hosting its annual show in the land of excess, Las Vegas, Nevada, the most important aftermarket and tuner industry event of the year. Enthusiasts and companies from across the world await event coverage to get a preview of the latest and greatest from the aftermarket industry. As an industry only event, the tuners and fabricators present the best of what they build, manufacturers show off their innovation and latest products, while buyers from all over the world congregate, looking to promote the next best thing in their showrooms. The media seeks out the most popular and unique innovations, looking for those fine details that define and steer the industry. The sheer number of cars and products seems endless, and the scope of it all is truly impressive. Many call this event the mecca of everything automotive aftermarket.
Formed in 1963, it was originally called the Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association and in 1970 switched to Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) to improve the overall image association with the shift in industry. Starting out with a mere 35 businesses, today SEMA has more than 6,500 member companies spanning all areas of the industry from all over the world. From manufacturing to distribution to marketing and more, SEMA offers benefits, connections, and support to help anyone enter the industry, grow, and create a sustainable business.
"Garrett By Honeywell benefits from the SEMA Show in several ways. One is showcasing our latest and greatest innovations with our newest products that our talented engineering team has designed. We were able to introduce multiple new products and almost every single product on display was new (aside from the GT06, our smallest turbo available). This allows us to show the industry that we’re always advancing in engineering and turbocharging technology! The SEMA Show gives us months of feedback, data and conversations condensed into 4 days! It’s controlled madness!” - Yukio Taira, Garrett by Honeywell
A typical SEMA member company is a small to midsize business with the owners entering the market as enthusiasts and whose passion led to a career. Such things as the Technology Transfer Program and Market Information and Research data give companies an insight into the industry and trends as well as access to crucial technical data and even CAD files to assist in product development. Programs like International Outreach help with international sales and manufacturing. Access to mass media through the annual SEMA show and other events and channels provide an incredible platform for exposure. SEMA is even involved in government affairs to help the industry stay within the laws and fight (or promote) legislation
"As a buyer, we found some of the classes very informative. There were seminars for training, equipment, and products so we were able to learn a whole lot more than just going around and looking at cars. They gave us more knowledge on products than you could by just talking to people at the booths.” - Timothy Cochran, Elite Auto Salon
"Garrett by Honeywell does utilize many of the resources that SEMA offers. We actively participate in MPMC every year, which really gives us a chance to talk one on one with many people within the media. We also participate in their exhibitor summit that they have. I personally participate in YEN which is a great way for future leaders in the industry to be active and helps guide us to the right direction within the industry.” - Yukio Taira, Garrett by Honeywell
Starting with just 98 manufacturers and only five show cars, the SEMA show has come a long way in 46 years, growing rapidly year after year. This year has brought in more than 130,000 individuals and 2,500 exhibitors. As more than 25 percent of the attendees come from all corners of the globe, it's no surprise that the show also attracts 3,000 media representatives from the automotive and mainstream outlets. Everything is in the spotlight
"The show was massive! The best it's been for a long time. I've been coming to the SEMA Show since 2001 and when the economy tanked in 2007, a lot of people in the industry doubted that the industry would recover. This year, it proved that the industry is stronger than ever! I've never seen so many booths in a long time. We [Garrett by Honeywell] had an overwhelming number of people coming to our booth and we couldn't have been happier!” - Yukio Taira, Garrett by Honeywell
Companies bring only the best of the best be it cars, products, services or concepts. You will often find it hard to reach representatives a week or two before the show, as preparations absorb so much time and resources. Cars are polished off (with many late, late nights), products are prepped for display, and booths are packed up for transport. As with any trade show, perfection and immaculate presentation are essential. The work is judged by the competition, by interested buyers and by the media alike.
"We like to use SEMA as a gauge to see what trends are going to be hot this year. Usually a pattern emerges just by walking through enough of the show cars. I think the [event] trends really translate to the consumer level, what cars and products are going to be popular. SEMA allows you to get a jump start on the year.” - Timothy Cochran, Elite Auto Salon
Every presented car is masterfully crafted by some of the biggest names in the industry. All makes and models across many generations are represented and supported by the automotive aftermarket. It's rather incredible to see so many modification options and designs for so many vehicles. The SEMA show cars have been built to showcase these products, and no two are alike. Many of these cars are built as one-off works of art and embody the true spirit and essence of the modified way of life and what prompted SEMA in the first place. Products spawned from the builds give enthusiasts something really special, creating the aftermarket automotive world that we love so much and experience. The SEMA show, the cars, and the people who make it happen all represent the Modified Lifestyle