The size of the auto body sector at the show has improved from previous years as well. Many new products were unveiled at SEMA, demonstrating a strong commitment by manufacturers and vendors to be part of this show. Although I personally missed NACE this year, I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the collision repair industry sector that attended NACE was also represented at this show.
SEMA has always been somewhat of a trend setter, and to me it’s a gauge for where we are heading.
One of the big eye openers for me this year was the drifting community. This segment of the custom market has dramatically grown in size over the last two years and is well on its way to become one of the prime focuses in the custom segment of the show. What the “Hot Rod” represents for most of us old geezers, 40+ car nuts, is being replaced by the drifting inspired cars with the younger generation. This is an important trend for anybody in our industry to recognize. It doesn’t matter if you are currently doing work in the custom segment or not, this new trend is opening doors for new revenue and work flowing into your shop. You may not be well prepared for a ground-up build of a high-end roadster, eating up hundreds of hours, or ready to chop the top on an old Mercury in your shop. But when it comes to modifying and painting body kits, installing vinyl graphics, smoking tail lights and modifying muffler systems and other mechanical work, collision shops are actually well suited to pick up additional business. The products and the tools used in this segment of the market are most likely already in your collision business. This is not always the case when it comes to building a Hot Rod, or restoring vehicles to concourse levels.
The good news is that young people continue to invest large amounts of money in their vehicles and this could be an added revenue stream for some shops that have extra capacity not utilized by collision repair today.
I know that many collision repair shops don’t see enough potential in the custom sector and feel it is a very specialized small niche market. Once you get to see SEMA with what I guesstimated was 130,000 attendees, you may think twice.
Yes there are only a couple of weeks between NACE and SEMA and I am the first one to admit that many of us can’t financially, time, or otherwise afford to visit both show in one year. But if you have never been to SEMA, you should make it a point. Not only can you brush up on the latest and greatest in the collision industry, you can also reignite your excitement and passion for all the fun stuff that likely got you into the industry in the first place. I even met a person this year that had SEMA on his ‘bucket list’—as in things you have to do before you kick the bucket.
SEMA is a very international show. You will meet people attending the show from all over the world. It is a great place to network and meet old friends. I have been told that this is the largest show of its kind in the world. Prepare for at least three days if you would like to see most of it, four days for all of it. Don’t forget to wear your most comfortable shoes.The venue is huge. You’re going to need them.