Just about everybody who had anything to sell the automobile industry was in Las Vegas last week for the SEMA show, a huge exposition based on the aftermarket.
For those of us old enough to remember, SEMA once stood for Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association. But that was back in the early 1960s, a decade before the first energy crisis. It is now a much broader organization that seems to include everyone, and it's called the Specialty Equipment Market Association.
With a couple of million square feet of exhibit space, the Las Vegas Convention Center must be one of the largest convention centers in the nation. SEMA does its best to cram every imaginable manufacturer into it.
Someone told me it was a 22-mile walk to see everything. And for the auto manufacturer and dealer, there was plenty to see.
More and more dealers are attending SEMA. There are a lot of ideas about how to increase the profits on new-car sales with accessories. Automakers are trying hard to offer the accessories that help their dealers.
Making certain accessories available to the new-car buyer means higher grosses and more sales. Finding just the right combination is the trick.
During the show last week, a small seminar was cosponsored by SEMA, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Automotive News. Martin Walsh, the head of Hummer, kicked it off with some valuable insights on how Hummer and its dealers are able to offer lots of valuable accessories for their customers.
That was followed by some bright dealers who shared experiences with the audience on selling accessories to new-car buyers.
If you have the right walking shoes, SEMA is the place to learn what's available for new-car dealers, and it helps automakers spot new trends in which car owners are interested.
There seems to be more interest in small Asian imports and small front-wheel-drive vehicles. Just because gasoline is more expensive doesn't mean American consumers don't want to modify and accessorize their vehicles. And despite rising fuel costs, the number of companies offering accessories for pickups, SUVs and even crossovers seems to grow every year.
SEMA may be the automotive toy store, but there is plenty of business to be done, and it's becoming a must for dealers and manufacturers. It takes a lot of walking, but you never know when you'll find the company that has tomorrow's hot accessory.