SEMA International - Going Global

A Few Tips on Taking Your Business Around the World

Looking to expand your business? Considered going global? We frequently receive calls from members interested in assistance in sorting through the decision-making process of figuring out which markets would make the most sense to explore in search of additional business.

SEMA provides member companies with a number of free resources to assist in the initial task of selecting which markets to target. The association also works with seasoned exporters who seek to take advantage of our various market reports, legislative and statistical updates and networking opportunities. More information on any of these programs  can be obtained by emailing Many of the resources are also available online at

"The most common mistake I see in the export business is repetition," said former SEMA Chairman Mitch Williams. "Just because something works in some part of the world doesn't mean it will work elsewhere. You have to approach each situation with a clean sheet a paper and can't count on the fact that what works here works over there. Some or even all might work, but don't take that for granted."

Added Nate Shelton, president of S&S Marketing and former SEMA chairman: "The biggest downfall for companies is not adequately doing your homework. Make sure your products fit the cars where you are going and that your products are price competitive-especially after you add in shipping and duties. If they're not, you may want to reconsider manufacturing overseas. Be sure that your products aren't too bulky to ship cost wise."

"You have to do a little bit of homework to find out where U.S. cars are," Williams continued. "There are a lot of U.S. vehicles in the middle east, and there is a budding musclecar market in Finland. These are countries where gasoline is $5 or $6 a gallon but affluent people who drive these cars can afford your products."

SEMA Market Reports
SEMA has produced  six market reports (a list appears below) to help members expand their businesses by exploring opportunities in overseas markets and by highlighting the vehicle mix, accessorization trends and legal requirements for selling their products in selected key markets outside the U.S. Specifically, the reports include information essential for those seeking to do business in these markets, including: top vehicles sold in the market, top vehicles accessorized in the market, full contact information and descriptions of the key press, key distributors and importers and an overview of the rules and regulations with which companies seeking to do business in a market must comply, as well as practical advice from those active in the market.

Available Reports: Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Spain, and U.K. (SEMA international reports are available either in hard copy or online at

Top-Selling Vehicles
SEMA has available lists of top-selling cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups for over 20 countries, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Poland, Hungary, Netherlands, among others. In addition, enthusiast magazines offer lots of market information.

"Get your hands on as many specialty- equipment magazines as possible," Williams said. "Even if you can't read the text, you will get an impression of what's hot in the market and what's not, and the number of pages of advertising is also telling. Is there enough of a local market that companies are willing to invest in promoting their products through the media? Start your search with SEMA. The association has a database of media contacts, and copies of many of these international magazines are available at the SEMA Show."

Attendees of the  SEMA Show may also pick up copies of more than 30 international specialty-equipment magazines from around the world, available in the magazine racks outside the Center for International Commerce. See which companies are advertising in these various magazines and which products and project vehicles are featured in magazines from key markets including Brazil, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela.

Networking Opportunities Year-Round and at the SEMA Show
"One of the most influential things you can do as a member of SEMA is networking with other manufacturers that are not selling competing products but are selling complementary products and sharing information with those companies," said Wade Kawasaki, president of Exports International.

To aid in that process, SEMA hosts an annual International Happy Hour at the SEMA Show, bringing together hundreds of exhibitors and international buyers. SEMA  also holds the international new-product awards. Top international journalists will serve as judges and will announce their selections of their 10 favorite new products at the annual International Happy Hour on Wednesday evening. Hooking Up With Potential Distributors and Overseas Customers SEMA offers a number of programs to help member companies find out about business opportunities, including a year-round trade leads program. SEMA gathers information on overseas companies seeking new suppliers and makes this data available to members through SEMA eNews, the association's e-mail newsletter. A listing of leads received by region is available online at

"I promote my product overseas by targeting prospects using various sales leads," said Tim Andrews of Fidanza. "SEMA's trade-lead program gives us an incentive to explore sales markets perhaps we would not have considered. The program also makes the initial contact very easy, as names, addresses, phone numbers and obvious interest are already established," said Joanne Craig of Express Parts.

SEMA also sponsors a program identifying international SEMA Show buyers and the products they are seeking. Exhibitors are invited to search and print out lists of international buyers who have pre-registered for the SEMA Show and AAIW. This information, complete with contact information, is updated biweekly. Exhibitors can then contact buyers before the Show to invite them to visit their booths or pre-set a meeting. The program is available online from August until several months after the November Show. The list is searchable by product and by geographic area. Exhibitors may view the data online or e-mail the list to themselves in database format.

International Buyers' Guide
SEMA Show exhibitors, SEMA manufacturers and export-management firms have been invited to have their company listed in the first International Buyers Guide (IBG). The IBG will be distributed to every international buyer attending the Show and will be shipped to more than 50 U.S. embassies throughout the world. In addition, it will be given out at major global trade shows-and there is no charge for a listing!

Legislative/Regulatory Restrictions
"In exploring new markets, it is important to learn about the legal requirements," said Alex Borla, CEO of Borla Performance Industries. "Can your product be sold in the target market? Are modifications and/or certification needed?"

Specialty equipment markets throughout the world are facing increasing restrictions on the extent to which customization is possible, which directly affects the sale of aftermarket parts. To address this growing threat to the global market, SEMA has been meeting with manufacturers, distributors and the press in Brazil, China, Mexico, Australia, UAE and countries throughout Europe. SEMA works with these groups to share information and educate legislators, government officials and politicians on both the economic importance of our industry (the jobs and tax revenue generated) as well as technical and expert advice so that government officials can better understand how to achieve their legislative goals without needlessly hampering the industry. This type of information sharing will be the key to safeguarding our markets. SEMA has been admitted as an official participant on a number of legislative/ regulatory working groups.

SEMA monitors and reports on international developments such as proposed laws and regulations affecting association members' ability to sell to or import from markets abroad and reports on these developments in ongoing regulatory updates.

International Trade Shows
"It is very important to travel to a country to check out a potential market before investing a lot of money," explained Jim Cozzie, former SEMA chairman-elect. "I can't say it enough: Go to the marketplace to understand, and preferably travel at a time when you can also visit a specialty-equipment trade show. Walking a trade show can show you who is currently active in the market and the products currently available."

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