By Mark R. Weisseg

In 1963 SEMA ( Speciality Equipment Market Association) was formed and has grown to over 6,300 hundred companies and over ten thousand members. Today, it has new challenges and some speculate the show is dead.  Or, it’s possible the largest automotive show in the world is just going through some growing pains? You may ask yourself how is that even possible? So, what gives?

In recent weeks some major announcements have been made that shook the SEMA faithful to its core. Ford, General Motors, and Hyundai have already said they will skip the 2022 show this November in Las Vegas. Honda is rumored to be another OEM that will take a pass. How can this be you ask? Well, the answer may be not as complicated as you may think. Still, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

I’ve gone to SEMA for years now. The entire spectacle is very hard to put into words if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it for yourself. Your eyes and ears from the moment you arrive are overloaded with the sights and sounds of this magnificent show.

It’s hard to grasp the entire show and its offerings. Multiple, gigantic buildings are packed with everything automotive. Large parking lots are filled with tents and trailers filled with all the eye candy you can imagine. Large crowds mill around snapping pictures, watching demonstrations, and enjoying the well-tuned event. You could spend the week at the convention center and still not see everything that there is to offer.

People from around the globe, from every walk of life, are in attendance. Nothing is left to chance here. From a vendor pitching the latest, greatest widget to unbelievable automobiles and trucks. You rub shoulders with celebrities and the up-and-comers who hope to sell you their products and services. Trust me, by the end of day you are absolutely exhausted. But, you can’t wait to get back over the next day and start all over again. Friendships and business partners are created at SEMA. Even after a week of attending seminars or just wandering around, you cannot wait to come back next year. So, what is changing?

What’s Changed?

When I attended in 2021 there was a very different vibe. It was a good vibe, but you could sense something was different. The vibe we picked up on was threefold. Here are my three reasons SEMA is on life support right now.

First, we noticed fewer people from around the world. We suspected COVID had something to do with this. Not that SEMA lacks diversity, but compared to our experience versus prior years we couldn’t help to take notice.

Second, and I believe this is the main reason for the change. EVs.
That dreaded word from those who cherish the Internal Combustible Engine. We noticed more and more EV products than ever before. From the Mach E to the Tesla’s driving you to another building via a boring tunnel. The EV revolution is in full swing. We saw an enormous array of various cars, trucks, bikes, four-wheelers, tools, and more.

Lastly, the OEMs are going through major marketing changes. COVID has taught us many lessons. Consumers began buying vehicles online and direct. We couldn’t kick the tires in the midst of COVID so the OEM groups changed the way they market automobiles, trucks, and parts. When you mix that all together, inevitable changes are obvious. The old way of doing business is being revised. Welcome to the post COVID world.

So, is SEMA dead? In my opinion, No!

SEMA will continue to put on a world-class event in a city that really never sleeps. Certainly, the loss of some major players will make the show very different. It may even hurt attendance in the near future. But, once the dust settles, SEMA will adjust. And yes, I believe flourish.

Honestly, there is simply nothing like it in the world. Sure Tokyo, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago have amazing automotive venues, but nothing like SEMA. The OEMs will be back and stronger than ever. It’s just a small blip on the radar for now. The OEMs are all busy figuring out the best way to market and sell in this new world we live in.

The entire industry is going through major changes that will reshape everything we love about our industry. Patience is the key to the foreseeable future. The thirst for everyone in this industry will only grow. And yes, there are some growing pains currently. But, once the dust settles SEMA will be back with a roar. The scenery may be different but like in the past, this entire industry will thrive again. I just can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.


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