Events like the SEMA Show offer shops the opportunity to really display their creative abilities.
It’s perhaps hard to imagine that the SEMA Show is now 50 years old. That’s right, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) hosted its first trade show back in 1967. At that time it was a small basement affair that took place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Although 1967 was thick in the middle of America’s golden age of car culture, that initial show boasted 3,000 attendees and just over 90 exhibitors.
Having just returned from the 2016 event, the statistics today are staggering. The annual SEMA Show now encompasses over a million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center, with 2400 different exhibitors in 12 different categories—almost 200,000 attendees—and more than 60,000 U.S. and International product buyers.
It has become, by far the most visible event of its kind in the world and despite being strictly open to members of the automotive and aftermarket industries (the public is not allowed to attend) it casts a big shadow worldwide.
For the collision repair industry, the show’s North and Central Halls represent the perfect opportunity to showcase new and improved products, as well as custom, classic and performance vehicles, which serve as a canvas for creative talent and ability.
Often, a good way for product manufacturers and shops to showcase their talent is to use one or several examples of the top trending late-model vehicles at the show, which this year, were the Ford Mustang, Dodge Charger, Ford Focus, Jeep Wrangler and Ford F-150.
Custom examples of these were found everywhere at the 2016 SEMA Show, in fact you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one. Although some will argue that today’s vehicles are becoming more alike than ever—driven by the need for automakers to increasingly share costs and resources in order to meet fuel economy targets—not to mention emissions and safety requirements, the SEMA Show clearly illustrates that with a little ingenuity and inspiration, just about anything is possible.
How about a Trans Am race-inspired late model pony car; a drag racing Jeep or the ultimate off-road vehicle or slammed street custom? The options are almost endless. And while many of these vehicles, are one-offs, a great many of them are put together by garages and body shops whose staff have a true passion and talent for automotive artistry.
I’ve said it many times before, that many of us got into this industry because we loved cars and we loved the ability to experiment and do things with them. Yes, the day-to-day realities of volume collision repairs require us to focus on this aspect of the business, but now and again, we should embrace the opportunity to do something creative.
Late model projects can be great because, not only are the subject vehicles plentiful and don’t tend to require hours of restoration work, they can also be a great way to bring team members with different skills sets and experience together for achieving a common goal, as well as offering the chance to push the envelope in terms of body work, refinishing and technical abilities.
Additionally, a custom car or truck also serves as a great image builder for the business and if you’re able to take it to a big trade show or exhibition like SEMA, it can be one of the best marketing tools you’ll ever have at your disposal. It can also be a great way to raise money for a good cause in the community through initiatives like raffle draws or sweepstakes contests.
Yes, it may require time and dedication outside of office hours, but the dedication and commitment to projects like this can often far exceed the initial investment.
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