Wednesday, 18 December 2013 22:27

The SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center is State-of-the-Art

The modern automotive garage first appeared in the 1920s and, in addition to parking cars in them, inventors began to utilize them for different purposes.

Walt and Roy Disney started making cartoons in a Hollywood garage in 1923 and in 1938. William Hewlett and David Packard rented their own garage space in Palo Alto, CA. Apple Computer started in a garage and bands like Metallica and Van Halen were originally formed in garages. World-changing innovations take shape every day and many have happened in a garage. That’s why it’s appropriate that SEMA has a Garage-Industry Innovations Center, a facility where tomorrow’s new products will be developed today in this state-of-the-art facility.

Located adjacent to the SEMA headquarters in Diamond Bar, CA, the 15,000 sq. ft. SEMA Garage contains more than $2 million in tools and equipment and was specifically designed as a resource to help SEMA members fast track the process of getting new automotive products from the drawing board to market. Eleven automotive professionals work at the facility full-time, each carefully handpicked for their knowledge, skills and experience.

Containing four different sections (known as “cells”) the SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center has been opening in stages since the spring of last year.  The SEMA Garage’s ‘cell one’ is a complete emissions-certification lab containing a chassis dyno. Cell two is a fully-loaded garage with an extensive array of tools and cutting-edge equipment and cell three is a media center containing a photo cove that can accommodate a full-size vehicle for photography. Cell four is a large meeting room to perform training.

The facility is under the direction of SEMA’s Vice-President of OEM and Product Development Programs Mike Spagnola, who has 40 years of specialty auto parts experience, including more than 20 years of product development and project-vehicle work. With a focus on heightening SEMA’s services to its members, Spagnola was hired early last year to collaborate with the SEMA OEM and vehicle technology departments while serving as a resource and liaison for members and automakers.

Spagnola is obviously proud of the SEMA Garage and anxiously looks forward to all of the future possibilities it will facilitate in the future, he said. “When this position presented itself, I jumped all over it. This facility is going to change the industry and that’s why I had to be involved. Things that SEMA members could not do easily or affordably previously will enable them to get an edge on the market by using the SEMA Garage.”

One of the main functions of the SEMA Garage is to serve as the main location for most of SEMA’s measuring sessions—a SEMA and OEM partnership that provides members with access to upcoming vehicles before they hit dealerships, in most cases. Members take their turns scanning, examining and measuring the vehicles for accurate, hands-on specs used to begin prototyping. In the past, measuring sessions required manufacturers to travel to various locations, typically within a two-day timeframe, and carry the gear needed to record accurate vehicle data. Those who have previously attended SEMA measuring sessions will notice a significantly enhanced set of assets for developing new products at the SEMA Garage, according to Spagnola.

Several exciting things have already taken place at the SEMA Garage, according to Spagnola. “We’ve already held some pretty significant events here, including our first-ever Mega Measuring Session in July, which featured five popular vehicles for members to preview—the Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra, Ford Focus ST, Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger ST. In addition, we held the Honda/Acura Measuring Session here, featuring 14 versions of the Honda Grom, CTX700 and Goldwing F6B motorcycles, the Pioneer SXS all-terrain vehicle and Odyssey minivan. The ‘14 Acura MDX midsize SUV and RLX mid-luxury sedan were also available for members to explore in 2013.”

Spagnola sees the SEMA Garage’s role as being an idea incubator where new products will germinate and grow. “It’s all about information and these measuring sessions are so valuable for any company that wants to develop products for these vehicles,” Spagnola said. “In addition, body shops and collision centers that work on specific brands can come here and measure these cars before they even hit the market. So, when a 2014 vehicle comes into their shop, for example, they’ve already familiarized themselves with it. They now have an advantage and can be more efficient when they’re writing estimates.”

The SEMA Garage was also recently used as the installation hub for the exclusive WD-40/SEMA Cares Foose Ford F-150. The build was performed at the SEMA Garage, in conjunction with Foose Design and WD-40 Co. and through a partnership with the Alex Xydias Center for Automotive Arts. “This was a great experience and I know we’ll be doing more things like this here at the garage,” Spagnola said.  “It was great to see some of the leading SEMA manufacturers working alongside underprivileged teens and young adults to complete the truck as part of the SEMA Cares Charities program.”

At the SEMA Garage, members will be able to not just measure, but also tear down and work on the newest vehicles coming to the marketplace and then use the facility’s 3D printer as well. “With their own measurements and CAD files, members can use our 3D printer to build test products and install them on the vehicle, Spagnola said. “This cutting edge printer is an amazing tool and members are already excited about using it.”

For members who want to train dealers or consumers on their newest products and systems, a full classroom facility is available for their use at the SEMA Garage. Holding approximately 80 people, it is ideal for training, product seminars and media events. Members can also do installation training in the garage and perform dyno runs to show off the newly developed products. Video photography can also be accomplished in the garage, cove, and classroom or dyno room, according to Spagnola.

SEMA members are encouraged to take advantage of this industry-owned facility for product development, fitment, research and much more. For more information about the SEMA Garage—Industry Innovations Center, including upcoming events and availability, contact Mike Spagnola at mikes@sema.org.

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