Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The SEMA Organization


Many people are aware of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and their annual trade show in Las Vegas, held every fall. While SEMA has become a household namesake among automotive professionals and enthusiasts alike, many people don’t realize that SEMA is much more than just their annual show.

“When people think of SEMA, the SEMA Show immediately comes to mind, but while the SEMA Show is the association’s most visible event, it’s just one of the many programs it offers to help companies in the automotive aftermarket industry grow,” SEMA Media Relations Specialist, Juan Torres explained to us in a recent interview. “The SEMA Garage, SEMA Data Co-op, and SEMA Education and International departments, among many others, offer services and host events year-round to help members, especially small and new businesses, succeed.”

Check out our list of Ten Things You Didn’t Know About SEMA below:

The SEMA Show celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2016 but the organization has been around longer -- since 1963!

The SEMA Show celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 2016 but the organization has been around longer – since 1963.

1) Humble Beginnings
Founded by Roy Richter, Willie Garner, Bob Hedman, Robert E. Wyman, John Bartlett, Phil Weiand Jr., Al Segal, Louie Senter, Dean Moon, Ed Iskenderian, and Vic Edelbrock Jr. in 1963, SEMA was started to “help businesses, including manufacturers, distributors, resellers, and promoters, involved with vehicle customization and who wanted to turn their hobby into a career,” Torres told us. It is because of these 10 men and their idea to bring automotive companies together to better the industry and the businesses within it, that SEMA exists today.

2) SEMA Is More Than Their Annual Trade Show
While SEMA is most famous for their yearly SEMA Show, SEMA holds a number of other events around the country throughout the year. These events range from the January’s MPMC Media Trade Conference, at which journalists and manufacturers are provided with face-to-face time to promote and foster understanding of various products within the industry, to the May’s SEMA Washington Rally, which offers SEMA members the opportunity to meet and chat with legislators about the needs of the industry. There are also SEMA Town Hall meetings, various membership meetings, Measuring Sessions, and the organization’s Installation and Gala.


3) A Legislation Watchdog
If you’ve been a Rod Authority reader for awhile now, you know that we highlight the legislative actions SEMA is involved in on a regular basis. Basically, through the SEMA Action Network (SAN), the organization stays on the up-and-up on legislative happenings on both the state and federal level in order to promote responsible law making on behalf of the industry. If a bill is introduced that could potentially harm or negatively affect the automotive industry, SEMA works with legislators to either fight these actions or help make revisions to the proposed bill in order to protect the automotive hobby.

4) The SEMA Garage
Located in Diamond Bar, California, the SEMA Garage is a facility spanning over 15,000 square feet that is set up to help designers, manufactures, researchers, and developers in the industry better move their products from an idea to a tangible component. With over $2 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment such as a 3D scanning machine, vehicle lifts, a dyno, 3D printer and digital race car scales, the SEMA Garage provides companies with the equipment and resources to not only help develop their products, but also test them using some of the industry’s latest and greatest equipment.


5) Charitable Contributions
In 2007, the SEMA Board of Directors established the SEMA Cares Committee– a group that brings “the voice and resources of the SEMA community together to make a positive difference in the lives of others.” Through various fundraising ventures, such as the SEMA Cares Pinewood Drag Races and the commissioning of custom automotive builds, which are later auctioned off, the SEMA Cares Committee supports a number of national charities.

6) SEMA Networks
From YEN (the Young Entrepreneurs Network) to MRN (the Manufacturers Representative Network), SEMA offers a number of “niche-specific” networks for industry personnel. Active members of SEMA and their chosen networks can expect not only networking opportunities with like-minded individuals within their own market segments, but also, the opportunity to participate in various educational opportunities, programs, and activities with their peers. The networks are good for individual growth within the industry as well as company growth.


7) The SEMA Hall Of Fame
Just like many major organizations, SEMA has their own Hall of Fame, in which exemplary professionals are recognized for their influence in the industry. The SEMA Hall of Fame began inducting members in 1969, with the induction of Paul Schiefer of Schiefer Equipment Co. Since then, over 150 industry professionals have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, including the likes of Ed Winfield, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Vic Edelbrock Jr. and Sr., Wally Parks, Linda Vaughn, and so many more.

8) Industry Education
Whether it’s learning about industry trends, new products and technology, or hiring from within a number of generations, SEMA provides training and professional development resources to help companies both big and small within the automotive industry grow their businesses and foster more successful work environments. They do this through a virtual career fair, educational lectures, classes at the SEMA Show, and by providing an industry job search and listing service.

Through their focus on education, SEMA also offers scholarships for students pursuing education or training for automotive careers. Students can apply for scholarships going into and attending college or a trade program, as well as apply for the organization’s loan forgiveness program after they’ve graduated.


9) The SEMA Data Co-Op
In addition to industry education, SEMA also provides a data repository, which gives member companies access to a number of online data management tools. These tools help with anything from managing and categorizing weights, sizes and applications, to prices, shipping, and UPC codes. The Data Co-Op also helps “manufacturers author, validate, store, and distribute product data,” as well as provide a channel in which distributors and retailers can access member company’s data.

10) SEMA Reaches Beyond The United States
While SEMA is based here in the States, their reach goes far beyond our shores. One way SEMA reaches world wide is through various overseas business symposiums, held in the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, and China. SEMA also stretches world wide through the SEMA Export Fair, which is an event held at the SEMA Garage for members to learn how to market and sell to customers outside the United States. SEMA also has the Global Media Awards, which is meant to connect journalists from across the globe with “new products [that] are likely to succeed in their home countries.”


While SEMA continues to impress with their array of programs and opportunities for folks in the industry, they’re set to go even bigger in the future.

“SEMA will continue to have a legislative presence to fight unfair laws well into the future. Passing the RPM Act is a top priority for the association, and it will not rest until Americans’ right to modify street vehicles into dedicated racecars and the industry’s right to sell the parts that enable racers to compete are protected,” Torres told us. “While not a new endeavor, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) is another priority of the association, and it will ramp up its efforts to inform businesses about the benefits of being part of the SDC, which gives participants all of the tools they need to manage their product data. SEMA will continue to explore any avenue and introduce programs that will help its members and the automotive aftermarket industry as a whole.”

For more information about SEMA, all of programs and resources the organization has to offer, SEMA-related news and how to register to be a SEMA member, be sure to visit SEMA.org.


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About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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