SEMA Finally Gives The Public A Peek. Why Not The Whole Shebang?

I’m sure there’s an Extruded Fibers Conference; a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning expo; Plumbing and Sprinklers convention; Paneling, Sheetrock and Aluminum Siding extravaganzas. I’m sure these exist, and that they are industry-only, as if the public would want a look. But one of the mysteries to me is why SEMA, until this week, has also been no-public-allowed. 

The yearly Specialty Equipment Market Association conference in Las Vegas is about cars, modified, tuned, painted, over-the-top, and all the cool stuff that does the trick. The exhibition, packed with hot rods, tuners, movie-themed vehicles, end-of-times off-roaders and eye candy of various kinds, has always been an exclusively industry and press affair, and maybe once upon a time that made sense. 

SEMA wouldn't have drawn a crowd back in the day, when it was more about spray-on truck beds, machinery, bolt-ons for towing boats, fog light attachments, runners of various kinds, bumper attachments or other things to make your truck more useful. But things have changed. With the early-Millennium rise of import tuners, and all of the kits to make Civics, Sentras, Corollas, and regular peoples' cars go fast and look cool, and movies like "The Fast and the Furious," aftermarket is mainstream. 

SEMA should probably be a hybrid consumer/industry show. Especially this year with Ford showing the 50th anniversary Mustang in all kinds of tuned variations; the new Corvette; the new Dodge performance cars; new Lexus F, BMW M, Mercedes AMG, Cadillac V, Nissan’s NISMO lineup, among a bunch of other factory-tuned machines. And especially because personalization is such a big part of Millennial ambition. 

And it's in Las Vegas. So it's near L.A., and Phoenix, and you have an installed audience of people who, psychographically, are on a major fun and spending Jones. And they’re ready for showtime. 

Of course, public days means an extension of what must be a horrendously expensive facility rental, and exhibitors don't have that kind of lettuce, even in the aggregate. Would the OEMs pony up for that? They save it for the big auto shows, where they can show all of their cars, showroom ready.

This year, SEMA has woken up. For the first time in its 47 years, the show is letting the public see the cars via a cruise on Friday afternoon, comprising hundreds of the custom vehicles that you would typically never see unless you were in the industry or the press; cars that will roll out of the convention hall on Friday and hit the Strip. It's called “SEMA Ignited,” and it includes food, music, celebrities, builders and displays. And it's about time. 

Especially now that the OEM aftermarket relationship has become much more of an open-source venture, where auto brands are offering their CAD files so companies can really design parts and equipment built to spec. 

SEMA says the Friday event will give the public, media, SEMA Show exhibitors, attendees and guests "an opportunity to collect and share images of hundreds of customized vehicles featuring the newest and most innovative products from the 2014 SEMA Show." There will also be an on-site taping for a nationally televised broadcast special — “best of show” awards. That's a good start that also makes it a national event via digital and TV coverage. But it would be nice to offer at least a day to let people past security into the big hall.

1 comment about "SEMA Finally Gives The Public A Peek. Why Not The Whole Shebang? ".
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  1. John Faulkner from The Drew Morgan Company, November 4, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.

    Having attended SEMA many times over the past twenty-five years I see there being a very clear reason why this show is not and should not be open to the public. The products being shown by the automobile manufacturers are not available to the public for sale. The highly customized and modified cars and trucks being displayed are design concepts, and letting the general public see them would only cause confusion at the dealership level and headaches at the manufacturer level.

    Having tens-of-thousands of rabid car enthusiasts wanting more information on the cars they saw at SEMA would be a nightmare. Plus, this is a selling show for all the exhibitors and having a public day would cause any number of problems.

    Your point of the cost of remaining open an additional day is also an important consideration. SEMA is not cheap to attend and staff, and if there is not a clear business (potential profit) connection between the extra expense of the public day, then the exhibitors will not be for it.

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