SEMA aftermarket show goes from big to enormous

LAS VEGAS — Except for the occasional (although many would say much too frequent of late) recall to fix a problem, there’s nothing really wrong with the cars and trucks, coupes and convertibles, sedans and station wagons, crossovers and sport utilities we buy at our local automobile dealerships. And yet…

After we have them in our own driveway or garage or apartment-building parking lot — and sometimes even before, right at the dealership — we also spend some $33 billion a year to enhance the performance, the styling, the comfort or convenience, and in some cases even the safety features of those vehicles.

>>Browse a photo gallery of this year’s SEMA Show

We do so through the automotive aftermarket, a group of some 6,800 companies that design, develop, produce and sell everything from air fresheners to superchargers and from paint — and paint-protective film — to wheels and tires. Why, you even can get brand new steel bodies for some classic Detroit pony cars should you want to build your own.

Each year, the automotive aftermarket industry — and many of the original equipment automakers as well (13 of them this year) — comes to Las Vegas for a trade show, the SEMA Show. SEMA is short for Specialty Equipment Market Association, a group or trade association founded in 1963 and which held the first show of its members’ wares on card tables in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

In recent years, however, the annual SEMA Show has grown to overflow the huge, three-building complex of the Las Vegas Convention Center to spill into the surrounding parking lots, and this year even onto an adjacent street, as well as into the massive meeting rooms at a nearby hotel and show organizers still need to erect a gigantic tent in yet another local parking lot to make room for all the companies that wanted to show their latest products.

Speaking of those latest products, some 2,000 new products were introduced at the show, which also featured some 1,500 customized vehicles.

The SEMA Show attracts some 130,000 people, but as a trade show is closed to the general public. However, for the fourth year in a row, anyone could watch as those 1,500 customized vehicles left the convention center in a parade-style drive away.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at