This week the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, known as SEMA, culminated its yearly trade show with a big announcement. Next year, it will expand to a full week of festivities. Until now, the show has traditionally run from Tuesday through Thursday for registered aftermarket professionals only. Friday was open to everyone. Starting in 2023, it will be called SEMA Week and will include enthusiasts.
And next year will only be the start of the show’s expansion. Over the next five years, it plans on continuing to add events to the weekly schedule. All of these activities will still center around the traditional show itself.
Now, the only activity for enthusiasts is the SEMA Ignited Cruise on Friday after the show closes. Thousands of spectators and participants attend the spectacle that continues into Friday night. But in 2023, both Friday and Saturday nights will be a part of what it is calling the SEMA Fest.
SEMA Fest will take place at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds. It will host an array of festivities with professionals as well as the general public. SEMA calls it a “high-octane and immersive festival-like celebration of car culture.” Entertainment, car shows, cruising, craft food, VIP events, and racing drivers along with “celebrities” will all be part of the Fest. Another addition to SEMA Week will be an auction. Some of the cars from the show will be auctioned in addition to collectible and classic car offerings.
“We have been watching the connection between enthusiasts and our industry grow for more than a decade and, as the industry’s trade association, have a responsibility to help facilitate that connection in new and meaningful ways,” said James Lawrence, SEMA Chairman of the Board. “By creating SEMA Week and SEMA Fest, we will be able to maintain the integrity of the trade show that makes it a must-attend event for automotive professionals, while introducing a new platform for enthusiasts and the industry to engage with one another.”
This news comes just in time as the OEs are rethinking their participation in auto shows in general, and the SEMA Show in particular. Companies like Ford and GM, stalwarts of the show for decades, pulled out this year. Still, many automakers like Dodge and Toyota continue to bring large showings of new and modified vehicles and displays.
SEMA began in the mid-1960s as a trade organization, but more importantly, as an entity to test and oversee performance component development standards. Enthusiasts and racers looked for the “SEMA Spec” stamp of approval, especially with regard to wheels. It ensured aftermarket wheels passed quality and engineering tests. It was titled the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association. Once the organization expanded to include distributors, retailers, jobbers, and publishing companies, it changed to the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association to embrace its new arena.
For years, SEMA has aided in legal disputes, as well as lobbying Washington to help kill or support legislative bills. It has also written up language for some laws affecting the aftermarket. Today, there are over 6,000 corporate members.