The 2022 SEMA Show kicks off at the Las Vegas Convention Center

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It was easy to smell the burning rubber outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday as specialty cars shoved doughnuts in the parking lot on the first day of the Specialty Equipment Market Association show.

The annual show – billed as one of the largest auto shows in the country – took up more than 1 million square feet at the Convention Center, occupying all four halls. And it brought together more than 135,000 automotive aftermarket industry attendees to learn about the latest trends in vehicle repairs and modifications.

“Everyone comes here and it gets people talking,” said Alex Armijo, owner of 5280 Vinyl of Denver, Colorado. “You can get your business name out there.”

This year’s show, which ends Friday, features more than 1,800 exhibitors and about 2,000 vehicles, according to Tom Gattuso, vice president of events for SEMA.

Exhibitors included automakers Stellantis, Toyota and, for the first time, Volkswagen. Attendees were also able to participate in drift rides presented by eBay Motors as well as other demonstrations.

Many of the cars on display featured atypical modifications, including snowmobile tracks on a classic AMC Gremlin X, racing wheels on a Tesla Model Y, and height extensions on a GMC Sierra.

“The mecca of industry”

“I first came here last year and left with over 500 photos on my phone,” Armijo said. “And I couldn’t even see everything.”

Armijo was back to attend SEMA, helping get the modified AMC Gremlin X ready for the show. His company applied vinyl to all 12 Quake LED-sponsored cars, including the AMC Gremlin X.

Armijo said it took about three weeks to get the vehicles ready, but he signed on because SEMA has a reputation for building brand awareness for participating companies.

SEMA’s popularity in the industry also attracts visitors from around the world. About 140 countries are represented at SEMA this year, according to Gattuso.

Airdrie truck accessory buyers Ken Klassen and his son, Matthew, traveled from Airdrie, Canada, just outside of Calgary, to attend SEMA.

“I’m 60 and when I was young all I heard about was SEMA, even before the internet,” Ken Klassen said. “It’s the Mecca of this industry.”

Klassen said the pair was primarily focused on off-road products, but the variety of products on display is still helpful for the company.

“Customers always ask questions and want a lot of different things like details, interiors and wheels,” Ken Klassen said. “So SEMA is good for us because it has the best of the best products and it has a lot of variety.”

Praise car culture

A Tuesday morning keynote, hosted by Chris Jacobs of the car makeover show “Overhaulin’,” featured the cast of Kevin Hart’s latest series “Kevin Hart’s Muscle Car Crew,” which follows Hart and his friends as they start a classic car club. While Hart wasn’t in attendance, the cast were on hand to discuss the show – noting that they’re still new to specialty cars, but SEMA is giving them space to grow as muscle car owners. .

“I want to see all the new innovation, see everything about innovation and all the graduation of these cars and where they are now. Because from 1965, or whatever year, to now until 2022 is completely different,” said “Kevin Hart’s Muscle Car Crew” cast member John Clausell.

There was a second keynote later in the day from three-time National Hot Rod Association world champion Antron Brown, hosted by FOX Sports reporter Amanda Busick.

On Friday, NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who recently became part-owner of a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, will deliver a keynote speech hosted by Jacobs.

SEMA also includes insider discussions on automotive industry trends, from how to convert classic cars to run on electricity to using social media platforms like TikTok in marketing strategies. .

There will be 70 training sessions with 14 different areas of interest or tracks with the aim of addressing new areas of interest for the automotive industry, according to Gattuso.

Convention-goers can also expect several car competitions such as the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competition, where teams of students try to build a car engine, and the Battle of the Builders competition which sees who can build the best custom car. in four different categories.

“The SEMA Show is a reflection of the $51 billion automotive specialty equipment industry. Manufacturers rely on the show to launch their new products, which improve the performance and styling of cars, trucks and SUVs. Buyers represent retailers and businesses that are looking for new products that their customers will buy,” Gattuso said in an email to the Review-Journal.

The event lounge will open its doors to the public on Friday and its after-party, SEMA Ignited. Tickets range from $70 to $100 and can be purchased online at semaignited.com.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at [email protected] Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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