SEMA 2011: Auto Professional and Enthusiast Heaven

by Don Elliott on November 10, 2011

Anybody who has spent time in and around the car business knows about the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. SEMA is the acronym for Special Equipment Market Association. The name of the show doesn’t quite describe all there is to see and do, including attendees and vendors from around the world. The Las Vegas Convention Center is one of the biggest exhibit halls in the world. SEMA takes up the whole place and much of the parking area with outdoor displays and racing events.

Teamed up with SEMA is the AAPEX Show. AAPEX uses all of the floor space in the Sands Convention Center, located just down the street from the SEMA Show. AAPEX is the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo. Between the two shows, over 115,000 technicians, automobile shop owners, hot rod customizers, off-road outfitters, tool manufacturers, racing parts vendors, mobile electronics sellers, tire manufacturers, restoration companies, and automotive support services are represented.

All of these professionals are in the business of improving your used car value. Seminars held throughout the event focused on training technicians on the best ways and products to care for cars. Industry organizations met to discuss standards of operation and government regulations were debated. Automotive celebrities roamed the aisles and signed autographs; all to call attention to an item that the presenter feels car owners and enthusiasts might want or need.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars were on display. Exhibitors used elaborate restorations on old cars or modifications to new cars to display their goods. All of the major manufacturers featured their cars with aftermarket products. Imagine a brand new Hyundai repainted in apple green chrome paint, or a Chevy Camaro convertible tricked out with about every aftermarket accessory that can be added to the car. Then imagine what you can do to that car in your driveway that actually needs a few parts replaced!

To make the SEMA/AAPEX Shows easier to work, the exhibit areas were divided by industry type. For example, the Central hall featured Racing & Performance Products, the Restoration Marketplace, and Hot Rod Alley. The New Products Showcase, Trucks, SUVs, and Off-Road Equipment, and Vehicle Technology items were displayed on the upper level of the South Hall. The lower level showcased Tire, Wheel and Under-Car products and tools. In the North Hall, where I spent a lot of my time, there were Mobile Electronics & Technology, Performance Sound Systems, Restyling & Car Care Accessories, and Collision Repair & Refinishing. Additional displays were set-up outside in hallways and tents with customized cars and trucks everywhere.

At the 4:00 close of the show on Friday, “magic time” occurred. Display vehicles formed an unofficial parade dubbed the SEMA Cruise as vehicles exited the convention center. This year, the SEMA Cruise found sponsors like Chevrolet, eBay, UPS, Swisstrax, Mother Polishes, and Continental to provide entertainment and seating for the crowds of curious bystanders that gather to see the cars that only automotive professionals had been checking out inside the SEMA Show.

After a couple of down years for the guys and gals who make their living taking care of cars like yours and mine, it was apparent at this year’s SEMA Show that business had gotten better. Upbeat participants flocked to find new items to sell and new techniques to drive more business. The event had a wide-array of opportunities for the car enthusiast who just happens to make a living in and around cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, or just about anything that has a motor and rolls.


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