One of the highlights for us last year was getting the opportunity to go Las Vegas and cover SEMA. SEMA is something that is just so many things to so many people. An event that has an almost mythical status to it, SEMA encompasses everything that is the automotive scene and more. It is the show, and the center of the automotive world in the United States and it has long since earned that title. Just the word SEMA conjures up images of far off land, and a show that nearly no one has access to. Sounds weird, but, that is in a lot of ways what most people may know about the show itself.
I remember when i first heard of SEMA back in the early 2000’s (about the time i got really passionate about cars). It had an aura to it that seemed almost surreal. The way that folks described it, it seemed like a bit of a promised land. Something larger than what it may seem like on the surface. You see, during the early 2000’s I was working at Autozone. While I scoff at the prospect of the place now (believe me, when you work with knuckleheads day in and day out at that place, you kind of earn the right to call it what you want. lol), it was there that I learned a lot about cars and to appreciate them. Yes, i know, it may sound like a bit of sacrilege, but, there was a time that I wasn’t too excited about cars. They were transportation and nothing too exciting. It was there though, when I had daily interactions with customers and car enthusiasts that took notice of our four-wheeled chariots. The more one is around something, the more one begins to question what it is that may be. From one day to the next cars became much more than something I dealt with at work. It became an obsession. A way of life. A lifestyle.
It was during those years though that I first heard of SEMA. I remember our store manager at the time was talking about going to the show. I didn’t see what the big deal was. I mean, it just seemed like another car show. I was going to shows like Hot Import Nights at the time, so, it didn’t seem so exciting. Well, that was until our manager started describing the show. The passion and excitement that he expressed in wanting to go made me take notice. Not long after that I saw pictures of the show in several magazines. Little did I know up until that time just how epic SEMA was. Mind you, while most people know SEMA as just a show, a lot of folks (myself included at the time), didn’t know that SEMA was much more than that. SEMA (meaning Specialty Equipment Market Association) is an organization that helps to connect specialty car product manufacturers, buyers and sellers to their desired customers. It is a massive group that is has its web spread out across all car-related companies foreign and domestic. It is a lot more than a show. The show, for all intents and purposes, just happens to bring together all the members in its legion, and puts it on display for the world to see. It is impressive to say the least.
I think a big part of why SEMA has that mythic status is the fact that the show is only for people that are in the automotive industry, or at least related to it. So, unless you are somehow connected to the car industry and are approved, there is a slim chance that one is going to go to the show. In theory anyways. One still has to be approved, and the line for entrance is very long. Seeing pictures and coverage of the show expose just how massive it is. But, while it is crazy enough to read or watch video coverage of the show, it’s nothing like being there.
To say that this show is spectacular would be a huge understatement. With over one million square feet of floor space, and over sixty thousand visitors the Las Vegas Convention Center sets the stage for the largest car industry expo. SEMA without a doubt is one of, if not the biggest show I have ever been to. With ever major car parts and auto manufacturer represented at the show, that million feet of square footage is easily used up.
This last SEMA show was a bit of a dream come true to go to. After years and years of hearing about the show, we at Spektrum had the golden opportunity to go to the show and see what the excitement was all about. To put it bluntly, this show did not disappoint. In fact, it was far from it. The funny thing is that the journey going to the show was just as exciting as being there for it.
That early morning walk to the convention center was the first in a long line of events leading up to the show. The one time that I went to the show it just happened to be raining. Not something very common for Las Vegas, but, something that I wholeheartedly welcomed. Having been to Vegas many times over the years, this was the first time I had actually been there while it rained. Even on the most hectic of days, the rain has an almost calming effect on me. The slow trickle of rain drops over my face made any worries I may have had earlier that day, go away. It made the mile-long walk to the convention center a bit serene and calming.
I had started my journey at the Excalibur hotel. While not necessarily one of the nicest hotels out there, I’ve always felt an affinity to the hotel. As a kid I remember going to the hotel and loving the theme they had going on. So, it was only fitting that I would go back there and start my journey at that very place. Leaving the Excalibur I felt like I was going on a journey for the holy grail. The grail being the car Mecca at the end of the gasoline rainbow. A beautiful sight if I’d ever seen one. My morning though, started with a quick breakfast at the new White Castle in town. Having only had White Castle only once in New Jersey, I was excited to see one of these chain restaurants so close to home. I felt even better having the opportunity to fill my belly with some early morning sliders (something I would surprisingly not regret throughout the day). Two-for-two already, and I wasn’t even at the show. After scarfing down those fantastically cheese covered egg and sausage sliders, I continued my walk over to the show.
At every corner of the Las Vegas strip I could see people with SEMA badges. Without a doubt, for that week in November, SEMA takes over Sin City, and the visibility of the show is apparent all over the place. The closer I got to the show the more SEMA attendees I would see. The main drag going to the show was impressive. With a trickle of people coming from the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd and Convention Center Dr, that number increased into the hundreds the closer I got to the hall. Within an hour or less form the moment I arrived to the show, there were thousands of people flooding the grounds.
With three major halls and plenty of outdoor attractions and vendor space, this show takes more than a day to cover. Starting at the lower hall, I got to shaking a leg and checking out everything there was to offer. From the newest products on display by all manufacturers, to seeing the largest custom wheel companies. On top of that you have some of the most impressive customized cars showing off the lastest and greatest parts in the business. And even beyond that, you occassionally have the celebrity appearance. Just to give you an example. While walking around the Wheel and Tire Hall I came across a large crowd gathered at a booth. As I got closer to that crowd I noticed that Tony Hawk was there. And he was about six feet from where I was standing. How insane is that? It is a testament to the vendors and the no-holds barred media blitz, that they are willing to take to attract customers to their booths.
On that note, one of the easiest things to pick up on is the amount of gorgeous women walking around. Sex sells, and these vendors pull out all the stops in bringing some of the most beautiful models from around the country to Las Vegas. In ever hall and at every corner, it is almost surreal. Anything that brings attention to your booth, and adds a bit of sophistication to your product are key notes to take note on. The vendors here have done so in spades and it definitely shows. With gorgeous women at nearly every corner, there is almost too much to take in. Between the cars, car parts, models and music blaring, it’s no surprise that even days after the show my head was still spinning. This is a good thing though. After all, like any good salesperson, you want your clients to be talking about your booth and products long after the show has passed. With a pocket-full of business cards, and tons of photos on my memory cards, this show left me with many memories to go home with.
This is SEMA though. For those that had seen it before, it’s no surprise to be witness to it. With so much to see, and so many of the finest examples of automobile opulence at every corner, SEMA is an event that every one should attend. While this is a bit of a challenge, I hope that some of the pictures that we have from our time will bring you a bit of an idea of what we saw there. This show is chaos on an extreme level and an onslaught to the senses. Now, after all these years I see the excitement that this show brought to its attendees. If you love the smell of raw gasoline and the sounds of pistons shaking the very fiber of your being, then SEMA is for you. Exciting definitely describes what this show was and is.
I know I say this after nearly every show, but, once again, and to an extreme level this time, I cannot wait until the next show. SEMA is an experience unlike any I have been to before. And that experience starts long before the show has started. SEMA 2016, we’re coming for you next!
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on SEMA and the SEMA Show, check out their website at http://www.semashow.com