Las Vegas Nevada, America's home of sin, depravity and the best buffets in the world, also home to The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association's annual trade show often referred to as SEMA. For one week in November every year what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. Actually just about everything that happens inside the convention center that week makes it all over the world through the help of journalists like myself.
I have been walking the endless rows of vendors for nearly a decade and a half. I started going to the show when I was a 16 year old high school kid with home made business cards and a plan to one day actually belong there. It seemed so much better when I was younger, maybe it wasn't so polluted with cheap knock-off crap and obnoxiously modified vehicles. Maybe it was the thrill of feeling like I was getting away with something just being there.
This years show certainly had its share of knock-off wheels, cheap body kits and pointless mods. I feel like every year it gets harder and harder to filter through the gravel to find the few golden pieces. They are still there, just not as common as they once were. Several of the European Tuners obviously don't see the value in SEMA anymore. Many of them had cars in other companies' booths, but just couldn't justify having a booth of their own. Most of the big names in VW tuning had cars at the show but no booth. There wasn't a Porsche tuner in site, and just about all of the tuned BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes were in booths owned by distributors of tuner products and not actual tuners.
So what was the majority of SEMA? Well everywhere I looked there seemed to be off-road trucks, street rods and muscle cars. This was definitely the year for big V8s, either in lifted trucks or big heavy American Iron. Chip Foose was everywhere; filming commercials, signing posters and just generally being this year's face of SEMA.
So where does this leave the European Enthusiast? Right were you are now, reading about the industry online and in publications. The tuners realize that this once a year thing doesn't cut it. The European Enthusiast wants real time progress. If a new product is released, they want to know now. Lets face it, street rods don't change that much. They can wait a year to show off their new carb or narrowed rear axle. We on the other hand want the latest info now, tell me what is new right now. I can't wait for a trade show. The internet and magazines are the only trade show I need. Why would a tuner spend thousands on a booth once a year, when they can get online and in magazine for a fraction of the cost and get to their customers almost instantaneously. Is SEMA still cool, yes very. It is still exciting to walk through the halls and find that one product you didn't know was out there. If nothing else, you can get a good laugh at a horrible product name that didn't translate well, or a crystal covered Mercedes that brings new meaning to "bling"