By Amanda Gubbins
SEMA STILL GOING FULL SPEED AHEAD
SEMA was formed in 1963, and the first Show took place four years later, under the bleachers at Dodger Stadium.
Over the past 52 years, SEMA has developed a track record of assisting members in a variety of areas related to industry and business development. The mission of “helping members’ businesses succeed and prosper” is steeped in history and first grew out of a need for consistency and community among racing industry members.
In the early years, as the industry grew, specifications remained a challenge. It became clear that a partnership was needed for manufacturers. Regulations were necessary in order to keep moving forward, but the manufacturers needed to organize. Discussions began on how to create specifications and legitimize products and, on March 26, 1963, the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) was formed in response.
In the beginning, SEMA exclusively served suppliers of performance equipment for hot rods, and the association accomplished its purpose of uniting the industry. Members helped develop standards for racing competitions and the association continued to grow, putting the industry firmly on the map.
A glance into SEMA history is not complete without a mention of the SEMA Show. By the late ’60s, members saw a need for an annual convention where they could all meet and do business. The first SEMA Show in 1967 had 100 exhibitors and was held beneath the bleachers at Dodger Stadium. Since then, the Show has grown steadily and now has more than 2,300 exhibiting companies spread across more than 1 million sq. ft. of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not only has it increased in size and scope, but it has also remained an important event for business growth.
By 1970, the association was ready to expand. The name was changed to Specialty Equipment Market Association in order to more fully represent all types of companies involved and the many aspects of their growing businesses. The council system within SEMA was later developed to give focused attention to specialized segments such as hot rods, restoration, racing, restyling, trucks and wheels and tires. Now, in addition to councils, professional networks are focused on individuals’ development within the industry.
Mediating government legislation also became a strong focus for SEMA early on—an effort that went a long way to legitimizing the industry in the eyes of the government and the public. Today, SEMA maintains an active presence on the legislative front and has also added many more resources for members.
SEMA continues to focus attention on the issues that are most important to members. Among the top priorities are the SEMA Data Co-op, the SEMA Garage, vehicle technology and the next generation of leaders.
The SEMA Data Co-op makes product data management simple for manufacturers, who can save staff time by updating and maintaining their data for a variety of customers all in one place. It’s also more efficient for retailers who can now find everything they need in one place and request the format they need. Learn more at www.SEMAdatacoop.org.
The SEMA Garage offers a broad range of resources for each step of the product-development cycle. In particular, the fully certified CARB-compliant EO lab offers services and guidance to get products certified at an affordable cost. Measuring sessions also give members early and exclusive access to a variety of vehicles. Find out more specifics at www.semagarage.com.
Vehicle technology changes at a rapid pace, and it’s important for members to be in the know so that they can stay on the cutting edge. SEMA makes it easy by collaborating with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) to provide information and alerts about advanced vehicle technologies and regulations influencing products and businesses. More information is available at www.sema.org/vehicletechnology.
On the minds of many aftermarket business leaders is their next generation of employees. Over the last few years, SEMA has developed several programs to develop the leadership potential of the next generation. One of the best ways for young professionals to grow is by joining the Young Executives Network (YEN), open to all SEMA-member company employees who are under the age of 40. Apply online at www.sema.org/yen.
Of course, the SEMA Show, held each November, will always be a top priority for the association.
Each of these tools is a different expression of the same mission that SEMA has had since the beginning: helping members’ businesses succeed and prosper. As the association keeps growing, members can be confident that the tools will keep evolving with the needs of the industry.
If you are not currently a member of the association, don’t wait any longer to be a part of its future. Joining is simple online at www.sema.org/join. If you’re already a member, customer service representatives are ready to help you integrate SEMA benefits into your company. Call 909-610-2030 to explore these resources in-depth.