SEMA Show Supercharges with Record Number of Exhibitors

November 1, 2012

Burning rubber, work-of-art rides and a Hackathon were just part of the action at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show that took place Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The anchor of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, this more of an immersive automotive experience than just a trade show attracted  130,000-plus attendees, spanned just over a million net square feet and set a record with 2,257 exhibitors,  about a 100 more than the best show in 2007.

"This a blockbuster show," said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of events and communications.

Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast a day before the show opened and caused thousands of flight cancellations, didn't seem to have significantly affected attendance at SEMA, MacGillivray said.

"We are lucky that the airlines and hotels have been very flexible to accommodate people,” he added. “Also, many attendees came early. With a catastrophic storm, there's that much more relief that people see value in our show and are finding ways to get here."

Even with all the hot rods and muscles cars in the limelight, much of the attention went to mobile electronics and vehicle technology.

"Automobiles now are rolling computers," MacGillivray said. "As an industry, we need to be able to demonstrate that we can do for consumers who are trying to modify their vehicles. We currently have 10 automakers at the show. Some mobile electronics exhibitors have more launches here than at other shows."

The new SEMA Vehicle Technology Center in the middle of the Central Hall offered attendees educational sessions about what's hot on the tech front as well as ways to leverage new technologies and business opportunities in integrating consumer and automotive electronics.  

Google, for example, presented a keynote on Self-Driving Car Technology, highlighting the company's pilot project with self-driving cars cruising the streets of San Francisco. It also is preparing to launch a new project in Ann Arbor, Mich., with vehicles being able to sense each other wirelessly and warn drivers about potential collisions.

Back at SEMA, super geeks could show off their mobile app programming skills in Pioneer's Hackathon geared at promoting integrating between mobile apps and vehicle technology, with more than $50,000 in prizes at stake.

Steady recovery also seemed to be the buzz on the packed showfloor lined with shiny rims, wild custom machinery and revved-up concept rides.

Exhibitor Mike Galvin with Featherline Inc. is planning to bring a 53-foot semitrailer to their space next year to better compete amid the sensory overload.

"It draws more people in," said Galvin, a 20-year show veteran. "The quality of the traffic is still up there but the amount has been less. If it wasn't a good show, I wouldn't have been coming back all these years."

Canadian attendee Mark Drinkwalter, with Marken Performance and Restoration, has been attending the show since 1995.

"I come to get new catalogues, see new products and reconnecting with the vendors," he said. "It seems busier than last year. There's so much to take everything in."

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