SEMA Las Vegas 2018 Wrap-up

By Rene Young

Getting down to business in Sin City.

I can’t quite remember how many times I have been to the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Suffice to say that it is enough times to constitute a valid sample size on which to base some evaluations.

Is it worth going? For the automotive enthusiast, there is so much eye candy that it is almost impossible to see it all in just a few days. There must have been thousands of stock and customized vehicles inside and outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The same applies to the overwhelmingly abundant variety of products on display, so the automotive service and repair professional looking for the latest tools, equipment and business services would not be disappointed.

Gilbert Gutierrez , Global Education Director of Equalizer Auto Glass Tools demonstrated the company's "Raptor" Windshield Removal Tool. Credit: Vince Piva

On the way from the airport to our hotel, the cab driver (they are always the experts, right?) told us that SEMA had expanded its footprint again this year, now occupying every available square foot of the facility, and then some. There was an additional hall of exhibits on the ground floor of the neighbouring Westgate Hotel (formerly the Hilton).

Until several years ago, SEMA, AAPEX and NACE were all held during the same week, with a day or two of overlap, and it was known as “Industry Week”. Passes were good for admission to all three events and free shuttle buses transported attendees between them. NACE dropped out, and has since held its own event at a different time of year and in different cities around the US.

I have noted an increase in the collision repair industry exhibitor presence at SEMA each year since the split. 2018 was no exception.

In fact, the majority of the collision repair related exhibitors were located in the North Hall, so it seems that SEMA has really focused efforts to cater to the industry rather than scatter them throughout the halls like an afterthought. This was particularly convenient for my colleague, Carol McNeil-Gardener, and I, since we were there to represent Collision Quarterly magazine.

The 1949 Hudson, unveiled at the Sherwin Williams/Valspar exhibit. Credit: Vince Piva

I also noticed a heightening of security again this year, particularly on the first morning at the main entrance area, where the line-up to get in was at least 20 minutes long. Everyone entering had to go through a metal detector and security guards searched bags. I guess this is the new reality, and if it makes it safer for everyone, it is acceptable. Fortunately for us, there was an entrance where media registrants were escorted inside and to the Media Center with little delay.

As of the time of this writing I do not have official attendance figures. It is estimated that more than 170,000 attend. Whatever the final number, most of the exhibitors we visited told us that traffic was pretty good¾they were busy and were doing well at their booths.

Congratulations to David Jacobson and his team at ITW Evercoat for winning the SEMA Best New Product Award for its new Optex color-changing body filler and putty. David explained to us that the product changes color from pink to green when it dries, which tells the body shop technician it is ready to sand. The awards are given to the most innovative and cutting-edge automotive aftermarket products.

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