Next, Peter MacGillivary, SEMA VP, took the podium and started with a colorful history of how SEMA became the SEMA of today, the largest trade show of its kind in the world—and the largest gathering of small businesses in the country. SEMA first began to come together in 1963, but oddly, it was when toy manufacturers of the various mini-hot rod and related toy vehicles sought to consolidate the many sticker types from hot-rod groups around the country into one consolidated set of stickers. As technology grew more complex, the various groups saw a need for an umbrella organization.
The first organized SEMA Show took place under the bleachers at Dodger Stadium. Bob Peterson of Peterson Publications sponsored it. It was a purely grass roots event. The show moved around a bit to places like Anaheim, until in 1977, it found a home in Las Vegas. Today there are over 100,000 attendees and 200,000 exhibitors, occupying more than 900,000 square feet of convention space.
MacGillivary says the intent is to keep it a mostly domestic, small business trade show. He says printers in Las Vegas are kept busy churning out phony business licenses for consumers wanting to get in by showing that they are a trade shop. This year both CIC and SCRS voted to meet with SEMA, rather than NACE, which will be exhibiting in Florida instead of Las Vegas. Peter says he expects a strong showing at SEMA by members of the collision industry.
The last speaker was Gene Lopez, giving dollar-and-cents reasons why shops should invest in I-CAR training now. Lopez showed how spending a couple of hundred dollars on I-CAR EPA Rule 6-H compliance could prevent a $25,000 non-compliance fine. He noted that while I-Car is legally a not-for-profit organization, if it isn’t able to attract training prospects, pay instructors and keep growing, the organization couldn’t survive. That’s why there has been a complete restructuring of programs, systems of instruction, and competency designations.
The revised I-Car is committed to six new programs a year. A major thrust is to eliminate redundancy and random access training. Gold-Class requirements are now measured in teams, with Platinum members forming the basis for the team. If a Platinum member leaves, threatening the move up to Gold Class, Gene says he will do everything in his power to get the team back on course to make Gold-Class. Some shops, like Seidner’s in Southern California, use a rebate system to help technicians pay their I-Car fees. They are then forgiven 25%, then 50% and so on over a few years until the debt is cleared. This gives the tech an incentive to stay with the company and also to get a sense of pride in his or her technical mastery.
So Gene says, “Why I-Car?” Best of all, it’s a market differentiator. It sets a shop apart from a competitor down the street and says, “This is a better trained, more efficient shop!” The fewer redos alone make a Gold Class shop more profitable. And even if I-Car is called “not-for-profit,” new enrollees and performance related development will keep the organization financially strong and growing. And that will continue to keep it a strong asset for the entire collision industry.