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04/03/2013
AMERICA LAUNCHES THE AUTOMOTIVE AFTERMARKET AND ITS VALUE

SEMA AND AAPEX MAIN PLAYERS AT LAS VEGAS
For 4 days Las Vegas hosted AAIW, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, with SEMA, for tuning accessories and spare parts, rims, tyres and equipment, and AAPEX for spares and accessories,  each one with its own character

Severino Savini

FOR OPERATORS in the automotive aftermarket, the first week of November means Las Vegas, which every year hosts Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in conjunction with the sector’s two main events, AAPEX and SEMA.
In accordance with US tradition, the two fairs almost overlap so that visits and meetings can be packed into the fewest days possible and, at the same time, meet the needs of an international public not only from South America, Brazil in particular, but increasingly also from Europe and, specifically, Italy. AAPEX is organized by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and the Motor and Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (MEMA); as far as the section dedicated to tyres is concerned, SEMA is supported by the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association and the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
 
SEMA, a global event
It cannot be denied that SEMA had the greatest impact with its 1900 exhibitors, 800,000 square feet of exhibition area (about 120,000 square metres) and an estimated 119,000 visitors over the four days (source: www.sema.org/sema-news). The same concept also applies to the expo section dedicated to wheels and tyres, where it is size that often makes the difference: an extremely low profile tyre not present at other stands means greater attention and visibility.
At SEMA, the area dedicated to tyres is still branded “Global Tire Expo Powered by TIA”, to emphasize this organization’s role as an integral part of the success of SEMA. The ever-increasing presence of equipment manufacturers, Italian companies first and foremost, was obvious at SEMA; this has increased the technological content of the event and has shifted the focus from simply scenic products: confirmation that now more than ever, SEMA is the fair that attracts the greater number of international visitors with major buyer traffic in its aisles. The attention of the media was also totally focused on what was happening here. All of which is seasoned with the festive spirit and bravado that is typical in the US and which translates into a “veto of jackets and ties in favour of oversize t-shirts”. At one time the autobody fair, NACE, took place in Vegas at the same time as SEMA and AAPEX, but since it moved it has to be said that the organizers of SEMA have worked to create and strengthen the section dedicated to this sector and its equipment, which was located in part of the North Hall and is now a reasonable size.

AAPEX, space for business
AAPEX has a more professional style typical of European fairs with focus on components, lubricants and, to a lesser extent, equipment. AAPEX is the other side of the coin even in terms of its targeted visitors, who certainly were not lacking but seemed to be fewer and less conspicuous than the noisy masses at SEMA. The AAPEX pavilions had no fewer than 660 first-time exhibitors, although it has to be said that many of them were in the Asian collective areas on the ground floor and the quality of the products on show was not always up to scratch. The total number of exhibitors was 2,309, about +1% compared to 2011. It is a custom for many exhibitors in the USA to have more than one stand located in strategic positions: at this edition there were 5,054, a hundred more than the 4,984 in 2011. Visitors entered from the Sands Expo Center, which again hosted AAPEX in its pavilions behind the famous “The Palazzo” hotel: 60,000 professionals against 59,700 the previous year. International buyers and operators travelled from over 130 countries to be at the fairs, a more than significant number (source: AAIA website). There was also growth in attendance at AAPEX’s convention and technical education section, which is always central to exhibition events in the USA.
The “AAPEX Learning Forum” was one day longer than fair to better meet the different needs on the agenda. No fewer than 32 conference sessions were presented on a variety of highly significant subjects: from sales to marketing, from branding to distribution, from industry trends to how to increase employee productivity. The subjects and the speakers were very positively assessed by the public who filled the rooms, even for events that were not free, a trend that undoubtedly will increasingly enrich automotive aftermarket fairs also in Europe. AAPEX also included an ICE/AICA/ANFIA area composed of 6 companies, mainly from the components segment. Information about Autopromotec and AICA was distributed in the area. The interest aroused emphasized that the distance between the two shores of the Atlantic Ocean is becoming shorter as far as the sector is concerned.
Coming back to association matters. Still in existence is a memorandum of understanding signed by the Italian Association of Garage Equipment Manufacturers (AICA) and TIA, AAIA, MEMA and ASA, the aim of which is to increase commercial opportunities, cooperation and technological exchange between the two countries. The next steps will be unveiled at Autopromotec 2013. The industry that revolves around the product categories hosted by AAPEX represents a total turnover of 395 billion dollars, a sector that is certainly essential for the US economy. One of the AAPEX meetings that aroused a lot of interest was the “Five Trends in Five Minutes” report presented by Polk, the consultancy firm specializing  in the automotive sector. In his talk, company president Tim Rogers underlined that growth in sales of light commercial vehicles can be expected in the US. A second trend is in the general age of the vehicles in circulation, which will continue to increase as it has done in the last 3 years. In addition, SUVs and mid-size vehicles with mid-size engines will be the only ones to show an increase in sales of new vehicles. Another aspect is globalization, which means that even more models will share production platforms. Lastly, and very important for the prospects of the aftermarket segment: greater technology in vehicles will mean more and more opportunities for the aftermarket segment. This will gradually involve vehicles with new types of engines and computerized control systems.
Technology is continually increasing” - Tim Rogers warned – “so everything that can be anticipated or embraced by the world of servicing will be a factor of success in the near future”. This advice certainly applies to current trends in the European market: the technological frontier must be exploited to increase the possibilities for business. AAPEX 2013 will take place from 5 to 7 November and SEMA, as always, will close a day later on 8 November.

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