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Riding on the strength of its 2012 trade show, SEMA looks to boost ongoing education efforts

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DIAMOND BAR, Calif.—While 2012 was a very strong year for the Specialty Market Equipment Association (SEMA), 2013 will be a year for the trade group and its members to build on that strength.

“The industry has stabilized and is looking for the economy to improve so that the aftermarket can get into a strong growth mode,” SEMA President Chris Kersting said in a phone interview from his office at the group's headquarters in Diamond Bar.

By any measure, 2012 showed SEMA and its members in a position of strength, according to Mr. Kersting. The 2012 SEMA Show featured 2,250 exhibiting companies, up 5 percent from 2011, and the floor space reserved by exhibitors rose by 5 percent, he said.

Attendance at the show rose 2 percent from 2011, to 135,000, and buyer participation was also up from the previous year's all-time record of 61,000, he said.

The third annual Global Tire Expo-Powered by TIA, the Tire Industry Association's (TIA) tire-specific section of the SEMA Show, also continued its record of success, with attendance up by 4 percent over 2011, SEMA said.

Just as strong was the SEMA Education Institute (SEI), which the association is continuing to build, Mr. Kersting told Tire Business.

SEMA established the SEI three years ago as an online educational resource, allowing manufacturers to place product and training information on a convenient, centrally located Web page.

In 2011, more than 1,000 SEMA members enrolled in the SEI for more than 630 online courses, according to Mr. Kersting, while 2012 and 2013, by comparison, are years of consolidation for the SEI.

“Our Board of Directors is taking up the future of education in the association,” he said. “It is monitoring SEI to look at the programs that are working, and those that seem to be not working. It's an ongoing strategic initiative.”

SEMA also continues to promote strong ties with TIA through its Wheel and Tire Council (WTC), through which both organizations work with the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop feasible industry standards that promote safety and quality within the tire and wheel industries, Mr. Kersting said.

Finally, SEMA continues its efforts to inform its members and enhance their businesses through marketing studies, according to Mr. Kersting.

Typical of those studies is the latest—a 135-page study titled, “2012 SEMA Consumer Segmentation,” he said.

“It's an interesting new take on enthusiast and non-enthusiast consumers, and on what makes them tick,” he said. The report includes statistics and other information on the attitudes and behaviors of hobbyists, auto enthusiasts, do-it-yourself handymen, commuters and what SEMA calls “DIFMs”—those who rely entirely on their mechanics for all vehicle maintenance and upgrades.
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