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2023 SEMA Show Creates Connections That Drive Future Success for the Aftermarket Industry

The SEMA Show returned to Las Vegas Oct. 31-Nov. 3, bringing together more than 150,000 automotive aftermarket industry professionals looking to transform four days of relationship-building, networking, sales and marketing into business success and dreams realized.

The proof that the SEMA Show was poised to return to historic levels was found in the packed Las Vegas Convention Center exhibit halls, teeming with more than 2,200 exhibitors, boundary-pushing builds, innovative new products, thought-provoking educational opportunities and more than 150,000 attendees connecting throughout the aftermarket community. The Show creates connections via dedicated product communities, outdoor activations, education and training, award programs, reveals, unique experiences and celebrations.

“The SEMA Show is one of the largest trade shows in the country, but it’s actually comprised of several smaller, distinct communities,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA VP of Events. “The networking that takes place within those groups is where you see the transformative power the Show has to positively impact participants and chart the course of the aftermarket industry.”

Perhaps nowhere else is that transformative power felt more strongly than amongst the companies exhibiting at the Show for the first time. More than 20 percent of the exhibitors were new participants, driving innovation, including Caross USA, manufacturers of portable jump starters and air compressors, based in San Mateo, Calif. The start-up has had products on sale for a mere three months and SEMA was its first trade show. Not only did they meet prospective partners from Canada to Australia, but their networking also gained them exposure via social media and led to a relationship with the television show “Two Guys Garage” and a potential on-air appearance in February. They also won two Global Media Awards (GMA), given by judges comprised of members of the international media to products they feel will be well-received in their respective countries.

“You don’t see a lot of ‘tire kickers’ at SEMA, the buyers are much more serious,” said Global Sales Director Steve Stambaugh. “I can’t say enough about SEMA. Being at this Show has done more for our company in two days than other industries do in 10 years.”

For returning exhibitors, the SEMA Show was an opportunity to continue building on the year-over-year growth that participation creates. For CIC Powerbox of Pittsburg, Kan., a manufacturer of AC-powered truck boxes that first exhibited at the Show in 2018, their participation has led to several partnerships.

“Every time we come to SEMA we come away with new business,” said CEO Mike Windsor, listing the Department of Transportation, the United States Air Force, Goodyear, and several OEMs as just a few of the relationships forged at the SEMA Show. “We’ve also made connections for opportunities we either weren’t aware of or didn’t know how to get into,” he added, including sponsorship of professional drift racer Faruk Kugay and growth of CIC’s social media marketing as examples. “We’ve had exponential growth year over year and if all goes well, this year we’ll go international thanks to the relationships we’ve made at SEMA,” said Windsor.

The Show remains a popular place for OEMs to connect with the aftermarket industry. For Toyota, 2023 was a year to push boundaries. “Toyota has always seen SEMA as a place to let our imagination run wild. This past show was no exception, as we tapped into thrills on the track … and the trail,” said Mike Tripp, Group Vice President, Toyota Marketing. “The amount of interest in the all-new 2024 Tacoma and Land Cruiser didn’t disappoint. And based on the coverage we’ve received, it’s safe to say that builds like our X-Runner Concept and FJ Bruiser were true stars of the show.”

For Ford Performance Parts & Accessories, the Show allows them to forge relationships with attendees and share the benefits of their products. “The SEMA Show gives us the opportunity to showcase the knowledge of our representatives, talk engineering and support our product with assurances that all accessories are fully reviewed for safety, ergonomics, and longevity,” said Natalie Simon, Marketing & Events Manager, Ford Performance Parts & Accessories.   

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For others, Show participation is a step towards achieving the dream of a career in the automotive aftermarket. Masen Schneider, a freshman studying mechanical engineering at the University of North Dakota, received a SEMA Scholarship, awarded annually to students interested in careers in the automotive industry. “It means a lot to receive a scholarship from an organization like SEMA because as big and impactful as they are, they see your story and experience and want to help propel you towards your dream,” he said. Schneider hopes to one day be an automotive parts designer.

The SEMA Show also remains a center of innovation fueled by passion, as evidenced by the Battle of the Builders Presented by Mothers Polish competition. The aftermarket industry’s ultimate vehicle competition, the program celebrated 10 years of providing builders the ultimate platform to showcase their craftsmanship and skills to a worldwide audience. For Andy Leach, winning builder of the 1960 Buick Invicta Custom, the victory was the culmination of nine years of work. “It’s a dream come true,” said Leach. “I’ve been chasing this award for nearly a decade. The Buick was a labor of love.”

The SEMA Show returns to Las Vegas Nov. 5-8, 2024. To learn more about the SEMA Show, visit www.semashow.com.

This story was originally published on November 17, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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