SEMA is one of the most prestigious motoring shows in the world, attracting thousands of companies who build cars, develop new technology and invent new automotive products. Aimed at those who work in the industry, the show has been on the go since the 1960s.
There were only five cars on display at the first SEMA show in 1967, which was held in the basement of the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Ten years later, SEMA had moved to the Las Vegas Convention Center where it has been held annually ever since.
SEMA, which stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association, now takes over the whole convention center, welcoming 70,000 visitors annually. But many of those visitors don’t realize some of the things that happen behind the scenes to make sure this complex event runs smoothly.
20 Exhibitors Aren't Allowed To Take Photos Of Rival Vehicles
Many of the companies which exhibit at SEMA are showing off concept cars or new automotive products for the very first time, and the last thing they want is for a rival company to copy some of their ideas. The organizers have banned exhibitors from taking photographs of the products on display at rival stands at SEMA.
19 Or Display Any Products Made By A Different Company
In addition, SEMA exhibitors have to follow the rules when it comes to displaying parts made by other companies on their stand. This can be problematic if a car manufacturer has a concept vehicle that they want to show off at SEMA, but the engine or another important part is actually made by a different company.
18 There Can Be Penalties For Violations Of Property Rights
These aren’t just rules imposed by the SEMA organizers; if any exhibitor is found taking illicit photos of other companies’ vehicles or products they could face a fine or even legal action for violating the intellectual property rights of their rival. Complaints are handled by SEMA in the first instance but can be escalated if necessary.
17 You Can Even Get Into Trouble For Blocking Another Stand
The stands at SEMA don’t come cheap, so every exhibitor wants to make the most of their allotted piece of space. Some badly behaved SEMA attendees have even been known to block the stalls set up by their rivals or even to just stand in front of them – both of which break the SEMA rules.
16 Staff Have To Dress Professionally
While the SEMA organizers don’t impose rules on what company staff have to wear, if you want to appear professional then business attire is the best option – or if you are showing off some repair shop equipment, then those attending SEMA might prefer to wear overalls, so that they can more easily demonstrate how things work.
15 Skimpily-Dressed Models Are Now Frowned Upon
Once upon a time, every stand at SEMA would have employed a couple of women dressed in skimpy outfits to attract the mainly male clientele to their stand. In the 21st century, however, these kinds of marketing tricks are frowned upon, and while models are still widely used by auto show exhibitors, they tend to be a bit more conservatively dressed.
14 SEMA Exhibitors Benefit From Cheaper Travel
Attending SEMA can be an expensive business, but it is vital for people in the industry who want to network and learn more about the latest auto products. However, exhibitors who have spent a fortune on hiring a stall at SEMA can at least benefit from special deals on travel to Las Vegas or reduced hotel room rates.
13 The Exhibition Hall Can Get Very Busy
The Las Vegas Convention Center is a huge space, and SEMA takes over the whole hall for its duration, but it can still get very busy at peak times throughout the show. If you aren’t keen on crowded spaces, then SEMA may not be the auto show for you – or you should at least try and get there for the opening time when it might be a little quieter.
12 And Public Transport Queues Can Be Very Long
In addition, unless you are staying at one of the hotels near the convention center, visitors will have to make their way back to the Las Vegas strip. The city’s monorail system stops at the convention center as well as some of the major hotels, but the queue can be quite long at the end of the day, while visitors can expect to wait a long time for taxis too.
11 Badges Can Only Be Used By The Named Person
There are plenty of motoring fans who would love to attend SEMA and to have the chance to see some of the latest concept cars from the biggest names in the business. Unfortunately for them, SEMA is only for people who work in the automotive industry, and when they issue badges to employees they are very strict that those badges can only be used by the named person.
10 Exhibitors Have To Limit The Noise Coming From Their Stand
The main halls at SEMA are always pretty noisy thanks to the crowds, but exhibitors have to make sure that the noise level from their own stands is kept to a minimum. Loud music is out of the question, and if companies want to demonstrate their auto inventions, they have to ensure that any noise is kept below 85 decibels.
9 Companies Are Not Allowed To Start Cars Once They Are On Site
The noise limit rule alone would prevent most exhibitors from starting the engines of the vehicles on their stands, but there is another very good reason to not turn the ignition key; after all, SEMA is held in an enclosed indoor space, and it isn’t good for anyone to have all those exhaust fumes trapped inside!
8 Only Auto Industry Workers Are Allowed To Attend SEMA
Auto industry workers are the only people who get to attend SEMA, as it is more of a trade fair than many of the other motoring shows which take place around the world. Subsequently, only those who might be interested in buying the products on display are welcome to attend the main event at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
7 And Organisers Will Ask For Proof Of Employment
And don’t think that any enthusiastic amateurs will be able to trick the SEMA organizers into believing that they are auto industry employees just to get in the front door. When applying for credentials, SEMA will ask for proof of current employment such as a business card or recent paycheck.
6 Visitors Who Don't Qualify Have To Settle For The SEMA Ignited Party
Those who love cars but who haven’t managed to secure their dream job at Ferrari can still enjoy SEMA. The official after-show party, called SEMA Ignited, takes place outside the convention center and features some of the best concept cars from inside the hall as well as demonstrations of vehicle stunts and live car build competitions.
5 Celebrities Are Usually Paid To Promote Products At SEMA
SEMA Ignited, as well as the main SEMA show itself, features plenty of celebrity appearances from those with links to the industry; everyone from racing designers to some of the top automotive designers. However, exhibitors will have to pay if they want a famous face to appear at their stand and endorse their products.
4 Many Of The Cars Are Unroadworthy
One of the highlights of SEMA is the concept cars or customized classic vehicles which feature on some of the biggest displays. However, it may surprise SEMA fans and attendees to learn that many of these cars are unroadworthy, having been finished at the last minute to ensure that they can take their place at SEMA.
3 Some Even Have To Be Rolled Into Position As They Don't Even Work
Many of the vehicles at the show are not even properly-functioning vehicles and have to be rolled and manhandled into position on their manufacturer’s stand in preparation for the start of SEMA. Not that anyone attending the show would have any idea from the way the cars look once they are in position.
2 Marketing Tricks Are Just As Important Than The Cars
You might expect that the cars and automotive products themselves would be the most important aspect of any exhibitor’s stand, but the companies at SEMA put just as much time and money into cool marketing tricks to attract potential customers to their stand as they do into the stand itself!
1 Many Exhibitors Struggle To Meet Their Deadlines
SEMA exposes strict deadlines on their exhibitors when it comes to paying for their space at their prestigious show, but many manufacturers also struggle to have their vehicles and hardware ready for the start of the event – which explains why so many cars aren’t even finished by the time they get to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Sources: SEMA Show, Motor 1, Car and Driver, Bestride