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The week of the car aftermarket in Las Vegas

Buyers coming from all over the world joined the two shows in order to know the new products and market trends. Recognizing the  importance and value of international buyers, SEMA and AAPEX organizers widened the list of options dedicated to professionals from abroad, with particular emphasis given to b2b meetings, as well as seminars and technical meetings

Mauro Paternò

The 2013 “automobile week” in Las Vegas is now history, and the news is, that the industrial sector is stronger than ever in the land of stars and stripes. This is the unanimous comment among those who have exhibited, visited, made business or just browsed at the SEMA (Speciality Equipment Market Association) and AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo) shows.


As always, SEMA hosts mainly accessories and tuning spare parts, rims, tyres and equipment, with an ever-increasing presence of Italian brands, whereas AAPEX is dedicated to spare parts and accessories, with a presence of either big players or large Asian collective areas.


A key element to the success of these two events is the fact that both AAPEX and SEMA are supported by relevant associations  in the US automobile  aftermarket, which have positive effects in terms of representativeness  and quality.

As a matter of fact, AAIA (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) and MEMA (Motor and equipment Manufacturer’s Association) are the two associations behind AAPEX; SEMA is owned by Speciality Equipment Manufacturer’s Association and by TIA (Tire Industry Association) for the tyre sector.


These two shows are held simultaneously, so the meetings are concentrated in one or two days, which benefits both American operators (those coming to Las Vegas from the east coast must face a five-day flight) and the large number of operators coming from abroad, mainly from South America, but also from Europe and important Asian countries.

According to attendance figures, this edition recorded the same results as the most successful editions of the past, namely the period before 2008 financial crisis.



A few years ago, AICA (Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers Association) signed a memorandum with TIA, AAIA and MEMA to increase commercial cooperation opportunities between the two markets. This agreement has increased contact-making and follow-up activities on show days, supported by ICE activities, which included promotional initiatives during the Las Vegas shows. This year ICE gathered eight companies in the collective area at level 2 of the AAPEX show, with particular emphasis on the visibility and promotion of Autopromotec 2015, the Italian trade fair taking place in Bologna.


Buyers from all over the world joined the two shows to know all the new products and market trends. Recognizing the  importance and value of international buyers, SEMA and AAPEX organizers widened the list of options dedicated to professionals from abroad, with particular emphasis given to b2b meetings, as well as seminars and technical meetings.

Las Vegas has once more proven to be the perfect venue for both shows, since the automotive sector in the USA is represented in a more spectacular way than in any other country, even if we are talking about non consumer events.

Following are the details of the two fairs.


AAPEX, technology and enthusiasm

The professional approach of AAPEX is more similar to that of European fairs, and particular emphasis is given to the technological features of exhibited products. The show focuses on the spare parts industry, lubricants and equipment only play a secondary role.   AAPEX represents the more serious aspect also in terms of attendance, which was certainly good, yet turned out to be lower than at SEMA, even though admission to both fairs was allowed with one ticket. 

The association that owns AAPEX, namely AAIA, (they were already invited by Autopromotec2013 for a seminar on the marketplace and current trends in the USA) disclosed some interesting data confirming how the USA continues to represent a market of strong interest for manufacturers of car and truck spare parts and components. According to the last statistics issued by AAIA (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) relative to the American industry of “Aftermarket”, the year 2012 registered a turnover of 307.7 billion $ (equivalent to 239 billion euro – based on a 2012 annual average dollar/euro exchange rate of 0.778), This sum, which represents an increase of 3,5% over the previous year, is split into 231.2 billion $ for car replacement parts and 76.5 billion $ for truck replacement parts.

According to the statistics issued by the U.S.A. International Trade Department and AAIA Association, US imports of  car components  and spare parts (accessories not included) in 2012 totalled 124.6 billion $ (equal to 97 billion euro). Mexico is the country’s main supplier with 38.9 billion $ (31.3%), followed by Japan with seventeen billion $ (13.7%), Canada with 16.9 billion $ (13.6%), China with 14.6 billion $ (11.7%) and Germany with 9.36 billion $ (7.5%).Italy is the third European supplier of the USA with 1.03 billion $ (equal to 806 million euro). Above Italy in the European classification, apart from Germany, is the United Kingdom with 1.10 billion $ (equal to 860 million euro). 

The 2013 AAPEX edition at the Sands Expo Center (which appeared more liveable after the complete restyling of the  rooms leading to the halls) took place on a total net surface  of 41.854mq., with 95.435 visitors (of which 59.193 were  buyers). 2.412 exhibitors took part at the AAPEX Show (+ 103 than the 2012 AAPEX edition), coming from 34 countries.The AAPEX pavilion hosted 36 official collectives (in addition to the Italian collective) representing the following countries: China, Hong Kong, Tawain, India, South Korea, Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, Malesia, Pakistan and Spain (data by AAIA official sources).


SEMA: service and show             

The organizers report that SEMA hosted more than 126 thousand pre-registered visitors, whereas thousands of others did so during the days of the event (getting attendance figures for these American events is incredibly chaotic): an increase of more than 7% over last year and the highest ever in the history of the SEMA show, which started up in the late sixties.

In an official declaration, the President and CEO of SEMA Chris Kersting stresses that “the success of an international fair without a doubt  reflects the health of the industrial sector it serves” and that therefore “ the growth trend which is so marked clearly demonstrates that the mood has clearly turned towards a state of substantial growth. The thing that is largely reassuring is to see the exhibiting firms satisfied for the return of new business” (taken from the official press releases of the SEMA show).

In the classic North Hall, Central Hall and South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center were 2.381 exhibiting companies, according to the organizers, but what impressed more than anything else was the search for new spaces, to try and keep all of them: from areas obtained on the higher floors that involved taking  compulsory meandering routes in order to get to them, to temporary external pavilions leading to the lobbies of the surrounding hotels, used to obtain additional spaces and to satisfy exhibiting requests from more firms. Las Vegas has the biggest system of pavilions in the United States, divided into spaces with dedications (namely the Las Vegas Convention Center) and numerous other spaces carved out amongst the enormous hotels along The Strip, but never before has it been so necessary to study new solutions because exhibit space during the “automotive week” is becoming increasingly saturated.   

As always, SEMA displayed a wide range of products, from aesthetic and performance components for vehicles  to service networks and equipment for car repairers, from the always interesting segment of restoration of vintage vehicles up to the more businesslike section of tyres and rims that has seen, especially in the last few years, the presence of some of the most important Italian companies of the sector. This last segment, in the past few editions, has been organized and sponsored by TIA (Tire Industry Association) and is called “Global Tire Expo”).

What really made an impression at SEMA was the amount and level of interest shown for seminars during the 4 show days; from the presentation of new products to the relation strategies with the customer to the futuristic use of the e-network and new devices for repairing vehicles (like augmented reality glasses and similar things), the whole cycle of events proved to be very successful marking out how everybody has tried to get maximum benefits from the Expo experience.

The SEMA yearbook on the US marketplace, reserved for members, declares that the global turnover for workshops was over 31.3 billion dollars, a big jump from less than 27 billion dollars recorded in the recession year of 2009. Observing the smiling faces along the corridors, it looks like things are going to be better in 2014.


Last but not least, the Las Vegas week was characterized by a large number of meetings, informal gatherings, cocktail networking events, receptions and handshakes taking place in the multiform context of the city, outside of working hours; sector professionals, in fact, need to meet and exchange ideas in order to finalize projects or contracts, or at least reinforce their business relationships outside the show.


The 2014 edition of the SEMA Show will be held November 4 - 7, whereas AAPEX, as in the past few years, will last three days only, from the 4th to the 6th of November. In Las Vegas, of course.

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