Q&A With Wade Kawasaki
SEMA News: Why are you running for chair-elect on the SEMA Board of Directors (BOD)?
Wade Kawasaki: I was 10 years old and working at my father’s gas station in L.A., watching musclecars and hot rods drive in and out, when I realized that this is my passion. My passion is what drives me, and it has been a dream come true to work and learn about everything in our industry, from manufacturing to distribution. I have had the opportunity to travel the globe doing business, attending cool car shows and speaking on behalf of the aftermarket.
This industry is my whole life. My wife Rose has run a SEMA-member company for 28 years and she is the current chairman of the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network; my son Tim is a third-generation car guy and an active member of Young Executives Network (YEN); and my daughter Alyssa is a spokesperson for Ford. I have been truly blessed to live my dream, to share my passion with my children and to make a good living doing what I love. I am very grateful for all the opportunities and experiences this industry has afforded me, and I feel the need to give back by using my knowledge, experience and passion to serve all the members of SEMA and help them to succeed and prosper.
SN: Recruiting young people to work in the specialty-equipment industry continues to be an important initiative at SEMA. As chairman, what would you hope to accomplish on this issue during your term, and what opportunities should the association pursue?
WK: The aging demographic of our industry is a major concern because it not only affects our future workforce but also future consumers. We must expand upon SEMA’s education initiatives already in place and create a task force to study motivations and engagement methods for future generations.
As businesses, we must learn to embrace emerging vehicle technologies and new trends in the workplace in order to attract the bright minds that will ensure our future success. As a founding member of YEN and the Sport Compact Council, I have had the opportunity to help guide and develop the growth of the next generation of leaders. Their creativity and ingenuity are amazing and, with SEMA’s help, they will influence the next i-generation. Tim and Alyssa are involved in our industry, so I have two bright young minds that tell me constantly what works and what doesn’t.
Chairman-Elect Category—Wade Kawasaki
I am honored to announce that I am running for chairman-elect of SEMA’s Board of Directors. I have devoted my life to serving the automotive aftermarket, and my diverse experience and leadership skills allow me to serve our members as we face our greatest opportunities and our greatest challenges in the coming years. My top priorities will be:
I have worked in our industry for more than 37 years. Currently as the president/COO of Coker Group, I oversee the 12 Coker brands and six operating companies, including Coker Tire and Wheel Vintiques. My skills include manufacturing, mergers and acquisitions, and business and infrastructure development. I am based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and also maintain an office in the City of Industry, California.
Some of my volunteer contributions:
My industry peers have recognized me for the following:
Together we can build a strong future and, most importantly, I look forward to hearing from you, your thoughts, your ideas and your concerns. Please feel free to call me directly at 800-959-7200, e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my “Wade4SEMA” Facebook page.
For more information, go to www.wade4sema.com, wade4sema on Facebook or Wade Kawasaki on LinkedIn.
Whether elected or not, I will continue to support and expand the youth engagement and education initiatives put in place by the current Board of Directors, such as our relationship with CU-ICAR, the YEN Launch Pad and Power Tour programs and the Alex Xydias Center for the Automotive Arts. The current programs in place are a great start, but they’re just that—a start.
Our industry was built on the shoulders of giants: engineers, daredevils, racers and tinkerers who were always pushing the limits. That spirit of innovation must live on for the aftermarket to continue to flourish, which is why it is critical that we show young people that building things with your hands and your mind can be both fun and financially rewarding. By working with top engineering programs, trade tech schools and high-school vocational programs and showing students through national-level marketing programs and direct engagement that the aftermarket has limitless opportunity, we ensure our own future success.
SN: What do you see on the legislative and/or regulatory front that poses the greatest concern for SEMA members?
WK: Concerns with emissions certification, federal regulation of aftermarket parts and intellectual property rights are all issues that will continue to cause challenges for our members, but the policy changes for vehicle registration and land use are a constant threat to our hobby. SEMA has an excellent government affairs office in Washington, D.C., that continues to strive to hand us victories such as protecting Johnson Valley OHV usage and contesting a multitude of senseless bills and regulations brought forward by our government. The SEMA Action Network (SAN) works hard to keep us informed not only at the national level but also at the state level. Through the SAN correspondence, we are able to send our concerns and sign petitions to members of Congress and Representatives.
As a founding member of SEMA’s Political Action Committee (SEMA PAC) President’s Club, I believe in the importance of personally supporting SEMA’s efforts to protect our rights. It is important to keep communication lines open with our legislators and keep our voice heard.
I encourage all members to activate their membership and join the SEMA PAC and the SAN. There is strength in unity.
SN: What kind of impact can the industry expect from the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC), and what should be the association’s goals for the program for the next five years?
WK: As we enter into this immediate-gratification age, consumer expectations are high. Therefore, delivering timely and accurate data to retailers, dealers and distributors becomes more and more important to the success of all of our members. We need to make sure that we provide an affordable platform for our manufacturers, whether small, medium or large, to deliver this accurate data.
In the next five years, our goal should be to attain maximum participation of members into the SDC program. By continuing to collectively pull together as an industry, the SDC can achieve this goal in an efficient and secured manner.
I also recognize that not all SEMA manufacturers are fully comfortable with the idea of a data co-op. As Millennials get to a financial position where they can begin modifying their vehicles, they will research them online in forums and over social media, browse prices and reviews, and make purchases at their local retailer or online.
If our products aren’t easy to research and buy, the Millennials may spend their disposable income elsewhere—outside the aftermarket. SEMA is a trade association built to serve its members, so I also think it’s important that we help all members understand that data is the currency of future success. Whether they use the SDC or not, we owe it to the members to know as much about these young consumers and their buying habits as possible—how to reach them and how to lower the technology costs for member companies to market to them.
SN: The 2014 SEMA Show concluded with a first-ever afterparty open to the pubic—SEMA Ignited—as a way to create enhanced value for exhibitors. What are your thoughts on this new consumer-awareness initiative, and what goals should the association pursue as we move forward?
WK: Leveraging SEMA’s greatest global asset, the SEMA Show, to reach consumers was a bold plan. Like any inaugural event, it had a few glitches, but it proved to be a success. Effectively swinging the doors wide open to the world’s most exclusive car show engaged consumers locally and globally through social media and television. Key to the success of our industry is to expose the creativity and passion of our builders and products to a new audience of potential customers. SEMA Ignited fulfilled that mission.
I feel that SEMA Ignited should be the cornerstone of a comprehensive strategic plan that introduces our industry to a new consumer. Consumer initiatives such as SEMA Ignited will keep that excitement growing in our industry, engage the youth and showcase worldwide the great new products being made each year by our member manufacturers.
SN: In 2014, SEMA officially opened the doors of the SEMA Garage. What opportunities do you see to further expand or enhance the capabilities of the SEMA Garage?
WK: As vehicle platforms grow more complex, our manufacturers will be able to utilize specialty tools to assist in product design, such as the 3D printer for rapid prototyping, a FaroArm for accurate measurements, and a state-of-the-art dynamometer to map power output. However, this should be only the beginning.
As technology continues to move forward, we will need to keep SEMA Garage on the cutting edge to attract and retain younger participation. With the new lab opening this fall, members will be able to access equipment needed to develop products that affect engine performance and test them much quicker and at an affordable price in order to apply for California Air Resources Board executive orders. We should enhance our capabilities by acquiring a larger 3D printer to print larger parts and in a variety of materials and continue to add technology to our advanced photography studio for both vehicle and products coves. In addition, we could implement apprenticeships to educate our workforce and internships to attract students to our industry.
SN: What would you say about the importance of the role of the Board in the SEMA organization, and why SEMA members need to vote in this year’s BOD election?
WK: The role of the Board is important to influence the growth and health of our industry. It is the association’s eyes and ears within the industry to keep it focused on those things that matter most and to make sure it fulfills its mission statement of helping member businesses succeed and prosper.
SEMA is a very complex organization, bringing together manufacturers, distributors/retailers, service providers and reps, all under the broad automotive aftermarket banner. This wide array of businesses with different interests and priorities requires an experienced, wise and skilled Board to help navigate. Your input into this process is vital and necessary for the health of our Board and, ultimately, the industry we all depend on.
Please take the time to learn about each candidate, make the right choice and vote.
Your decision will be significant, as it will affect the future of our industry. After careful consideration of the candidates, I hope you will choose me for chair-elect. But no matter who you choose, I encourage you to get involved and vote!