Las Vegas trade show an aftermarket bonanza

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

What the North American International Auto Show is to the new car automobile industry and consumers, the SEMA Show is to the automotive aftermarket.

Well, except that the annual showcase of products from members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association is a trade show and the “consumers” at the show are retailers, installers and assorted news media types who will gather next week at the Las Vegas Convention Center to see thousands of products designed to enhance a vehicle’s looks and/or dynamic capabilities.

Why, should you choose, you could go to the show and find enough parts and pieces to build an entire car, from brand new sheetmetal for a classic Mustang or Camaro to engines and transmissions, wheels and tires, seats and steering wheels and everything else you might need — even air fresheners.

It’s not just those who make parts and pieces showcasing their newest wares at SEMA. Kia, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Chevrolet and Fiat Chrysler have scheduled news conferences to unveil show cars and their own in-house designed aftermarket accessories and new performance-enhancing equipment.

Continental Tire will display its new ExtremeContact Sport tire, Pirelli has requested time for its new tires, Magnaflow Exhaust has built a 1,000-horsepower “Vicious” Mustang, Roush Performance has a new vehicle to unveil and the Ringbrothers from Wisconsin have created several special builds for the show.

Weld Wheels plans something special as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Brembo brakes has a new-product announcement to make. Craftsman has new tools to introduce and WD-40 celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special vehicle build.

The show also features the third-annual Battle of the Builders, this year with 250 entries, 98 of them built by those age 35 or younger.

New this year is a Student Career Day, to be held Halloween afternoon before the show officially opens the following day. A recent survey of SEMA members disclosed that nearly all of them — 98 percent — expect to hire new employees within the next five years but don’t know where to find people with the necessary skills.

Student Career Day will bring 600 high school and college students to the convention center to introduce them to career opportunities in the automotive field.

“It is an opportunity to pique the interest of bright, talented young people and for exhibitors to being relationships that may lead students to begin their careers in the aftermarket industry,” SEMA said in a news release, which noted the diversity of skills the industry needs.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at