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The two events were held at the same time so that meetings could take place in just a few days. They were both supported by important associations

Mauro Paternò

For the automotive aftermarket world, the week between the end of October and the beginning of November means Las Vegas, the setting every year for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, the unification of the sector’s two main events, AAPEX and SEMA, after NACE, the event dedicated to the world of bodywork repairs, departed to travel to various US cities in October.

SEMA hosts mainly accessories and tuning spares, rims, tyres and equipment, with a good and growing presence of brands by Italian manufacturers. AAPEX is dedicated to spares and accessories, with attendance by big players as well as large collective areas from Asia. The two events are held at the same time so that meetings can take place in just one or two days, to the advantage of US operators as well as the large number of operators from abroad, mainly South America but also Europe and some Asian countries.

According to the unanimous opinion of visitors, these two latest editions marked a definite return to results that are in line with those prior to the 2008 recession. It should be remembered that both shows are supported by their relevant associations in the US automotive aftermarket world, with all the positive consequences of representation and quality. AAPEX is backed by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and the  Motor and Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (MEMA); SEMA is held by the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) for the tyre sector. Some years ago, the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (AICA) signed a memorandum with TIA, AAIA and MEMA for increasing commercial opportunities, cooperation and technological exchange between the two markets. This enriches work during the shows and AICA was there with a stand dedicated especially to promoting Autopromotec 2013.

Going into more detail, SEMA 2011 attracted over 2,100 exhibitors (source:  and about 3,000 publishers and journalists from all over the world, who reported on the new products and trends in numerous automotive aftermarket sectors including tyres, accessories and customizations. In addition, like every year, buyers from all over the world came to the shows to find out about new products and market trends. In recognition of the importance and value of international buyers at SEMA, the organizers increased the list of options specifically for professionals from abroad. Moreover, after the separation from NACE, the event dedicated to bodywork repairs, the organizers worked hard on this sector and the relevant equipment to add an important dimension that was located this year in the North Hall.

It wasn’t possible to get the definitive official data about the number of visitors, but we do know that there were 135,000 declared pre-registrations before the start of the event, 61,000 of which were buyers, the highest number in the history of the event. Despite the fact that there were over 1,500 personalized vehicles on show at SEMA, it should always be remembered that, officially, this is not a car show but a showcase for automotive products that improve safety, performance and comfort, which in the USA is interpreted primarily as a powerful tool for increasing the profit margins of dealerships and distributors.

The South Hall hosted Global Tire Expo, the section dedicated to tyres, rims and equipment. As mentioned above, this was where the stands of the main Italian manufacturers were concentrated and were increasingly visible. According to TIA, the coordinator of this section, this sector has also seen an increase in participation, interest and new products by companies and operators and the feeling is decidedly positive.

On a colourful note: of all the vehicles exhibited at the stands, the Fiat 500 was voted “car of the year for personalization” by over 2,000 exhibitors. A result that is certainly surprising for the US market.

At AAPEX the style was, as always, more professional and similar to European shows, with focus on components, lubricants and equipment. AAPEX is the other side of the coin also in terms of visitors, who certainly were not lacking but were fewer compared to the enthusiastic mass of visitors at SEMA, even though both expos could be visited with the same ticket.

AAPEX 2011 had 2,292 exhibitors, 230 more than in 2010. In general, participation in AAPEX by some key categories represented by buyers in the car spares sector, retailers, independent repair shops and groups of distributors, grew considerably against 2010, according to data published by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). AAPEX 2011 was held as always at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, just a few hundred metres from the Las Vegas Convention Centre which hosted SEMA and all its product categories. The organizers of both events talked about an increase of 24 to 38% in some automotive aftermarket segments like car spare retailers and independent repair shops. Overall, visitors to Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week increased by 17% compared to 2010 (source:

AAPEX 2012 will be held from Tuesday, 30 October to Friday, 1 November and, as usual, SEMA has an extra day and will close on Friday, 2 November.

Lastly, a note about the market: according to a survey commissioned by the organizers of SEMA, in 2011 buyers of cars and commercial vehicles in the United States were prepared to invest an additional 1,000 to 3,500 dollars a year in extra accessories.  Undoubtedly, a large cake that can be shared among dealerships and garages and this why more and more are packing  the halls of the two shows in search of new products to offer their customers. The turnover for spares and accessories is 28.6 billion dollars and dealers are studying ways to maximize profits.

An aspect of Las Vegas week that is no less important is the opportunity for encounters, informal meetings, appointments for cocktails, and handshakes. In effect, in addition to the prescribed participation with a stand, sector professionals have a growing need for concrete opportunities for meetings that complement their time spent in the halls.

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