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SEMA SHOW and AAPEX protagonists in Las Vegas


4 days in which Las Vegas becomes AAIW, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, during the world famous SEMA SHOW, a spectacular event centered around tuning parts and accessories, wheels, tires and equipment, as well as AAPEX, also fully dedicated to parts and accessories, but with a different target. 

Mauro Paternò


Driving from California, the city appears like a giant spaceship resting on the desert’s sands, ready for lift off when daylight yields to Sin City’s kaleidoscope of lights and colors, and the setting sun outlines the city limits. Coming to think of it, what better place than Las Vegas is there, in this country of oddities and sincere car lovers, to host two events that every year attract professionals, specialists and enthusiasts from the whole country as well as other parts of the American continent, Europe, Asia and the Middle East? 

AAPEX is managed by ACA (Auto Care Association) and can count on the contribution of some branches of MEMA (Motor and Equipment Manufacturer’s Association); SEMA, on the other hand, is organized and managed by SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) itself, alongside TIA (Tire Industry Association) for the part dedicated to tires and wheels, recently renamed Global Tire Expo.

The two events almost overlap, concentrating a large number of visitors and events within a limited time, while, at the same time, meeting the needs of the international audience crowding the halls during the endless seminar sessions (simultaneous seminars aimed at improving business and networking cocktails to establish new contacts are a must for U.S. expos). 


SEMA, a global event

It is undeniable that SEMA is the event with the greatest impact. Now in its forty-ninth edition (the first being in 1967, probably one of the oldest events in the sector, along with Autopromotec), with about 2,400 exhibitors spread well over a million square feet of exhibition space and 140,000 visitors estimated in the four opening days (source, this event has certainly become, over the years, the meeting place par excellence for the US market among manufacturers of components, equipment and accessories for the automotive industry eager to get in touch with buyers and stakeholders from around the world. Suffice it to say that the official figures talk about 60,000 buyers, 25% of them coming from 130 countries and the launch of new products during the fair has exceeded 3,000 units.

In addition, other extraordinary numbers make SEMA a unique event like the more than 1,500 customized vehicles on display at the fair, attracting operators and mere visitors towards a strong and inspiring part of the U.S. market, favored by laws that are certainly more lenient than what we find in Europe. Many of the major car manufacturers are present with their official assistance networks or companies connected to components, including Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, FCA, BMW.

The 2015 edition saw the presence of 500 new exhibitors, with new products, services and solutions within the framework of a traditional market that looks to new opportunities and web-related technologies.

It is interesting to note how large car manufacturers, as well as some of the sector’s leading groups, are placed alongside the stands of small firms owned and managed by real experts and enthusiasts, making up a multi-colored puzzle of specialists that, probably, represents the real added value of this event.

The South Hall, controlled by TIA (Tire Industry Association), clearly shows how, alongside premium tire manufacturers such as Pirelli and Continental, the presence of garage equipment producers keeps growing, with Italian companies in the forefront; and SEMA is now by far the most popular of the two events, one that exercises the greatest attraction for international visitors, as well as generating the highest traffic of buyers between lanes. Not to mention media operators - 3,000 accredited on average – totally focused on what happens here. In this hall, an area called "Automotive Excellence" was created and coordinated by AICA (Italian Association of Automotive Equipment Manufacturers) along with four associated companies like Vamag, Cattini, Fasep and Omer, which played a major role in promoting Autopromotec and its record numbers to a professional audience also in the US. Some of the most important Italian manufacturers of automotive equipment were also present in the same hall with large crowded areas, where new and innovative products were unveiled for the first time.

Finally, we must add that SEMA’s organization, after the relocation of NACE, an event dedicated to bodywork that used to take place in Vegas at the same time as SEMA and AAPEX, have worked to create and consolidate a section dedicated to this sector as well, and to all related equipment in the North Hall.

Looking into other features of the SEMA show, it is always impressive to see how the various seminars, presentations, conferences and networking events are massive and very popular with all operators and specialists, many of which were forced to stay outside the completely crowded meeting rooms. From business strategy to new technological developments, passing by the use of new techniques related to online marketing and many other aspects, this extensive calendar certainly met the interest and curiosity of the sector’s operators. Finally, we must emphasize that the organizers, in their press releases, underlined how this specific sector of the automotive industry, represented by SEMA, represents an economic turnover of over 36 billion dollars a year in the US alone, which explains the reason behind such a strong interest.

A fantastic final event, called "SEMA Ignition", brought together, in the hours immediately following the closing of the event, exhibitors, visitors, as well as enthusiasts, in a large outdoor area where music, food, drink, pretty girls and "live" shows with customized cars celebrated a hearty farewell until the 2016 edition, a spectacular experience for those who will fly to Nevada next year.


AAPEX, European-style business

AAPEX, for style, resembles the professional approach of European shows: the main sectors are components, lubricants and, to a lesser extent, garage equipment. AAPEX is a bit like the other side of the coin also in relation to the target visitors, which, though not lacking, appear at first sight to be considerably less than the masses present at SEMA.

During the 3 days of the event, inside the AAPEX exhibition halls, 2.400 exhibitors were hosted and up to 55 seminars and conventions were organized under the AAPEXedu banner, delighting the more than 130.000 visitors and 39.000 buyers from over 140 countries (source: AAPEX official press release). Many of the exhibitors, here in the U.S.A., occupied more than one stand in a few strategic places: which explains why the organizers counted more than 5.000 stands. A number of Asian collective areas showed the quality of their products, not always up to scratch, on the ground floor. The focus of the event was well described by the claim “ahead of the curve”, visible a bit everywhere, aimed at leading the buyers beyond the challenges that new technologies are posing to the Aftermarket segment.

Within AAPEX an area dedicated to ICE / ANFIA / AICA included 8 companies, mainly from the components sector, such as TEXA associated with AICA. Informational materials on the figures of  the last Autopromotec event were distributed, highlighting future initiatives. The interest aroused was really above our most optimistic expectations, as if to emphasize that the distance between the two shores of the Atlantic Ocean is consistently shrinking.

Automotive associations also played an important part in the event, and it is useful to remember that a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Italian Automotive Equipment Manufacturers Association (AICA) and TIA, ACA and MEMA is still in place, in order to improve business opportunities, cooperation and technology transfer between the two countries. The intent is to create an Italian business area, coordinated by Autopromotec during the 2016 SEMA show.

The industry represented at AAPEX accounts for a total turnover of over 450 billion dollars (source: AAPEX press release), a primary industrial sector for the US economy, which explains the interest around the event, as well as the increasing participation.

The next edition of AAPEX will be held from the 3rd to the 5th of November 2016, while SEMA will run between the 1st and 4th of November of the same year.

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