DIAMOND BAR, Calif.2013 turned out to be a challenging year for the Specialty Market Equipment Association (SEMA) and its members.
But a strong SEMA Show in Las Vegas last November plus encouraging economic signs make 2014 look promising, according to SEMA President Chris Kersting.
In fact, 2012 was such a strong year, he told Tire Business in a year-end 2013 interview, that it made the prospects for 2013 look better than they turned out to be.
2013 has been marked by inconsistency, Mr. Kersting said. There were some nice signs of growth, then drop-offs and pullbacks.
On the whole, most of our segments reported net growth, consistent with anticipated growth, albeit at a slow rate.
There were strong sales exhibited in the truck and SUV categories last year, as well as a decent increase in off-the-road sales, Mr. Kersting said. Restyling and accessories also saw some growth, as motorists found they had more money for discretionary spending.
Generally speaking, companies with new and innovative products are doing well in the current economy, he said. 2014 should bring some growth across the board.
The SEMA Showtraditionally the highlight of any year for the Diamond Bar-based trade groupwas exceptionally good in 2013, Mr. Kersting said.
We had nearly 2,400 exhibitorsthe largest number everand tremendous participation from media, he said. Judging from the response of show exhibitors, there was a very strong turnout from buyer attendees, with a strong increase from global buyers.
Approximately 25 percent of the buyer attendees came from outside the U.S., he noted.
One hundred and thirty countries were represented at the show, he said. This is significant because these are buyers new to our market. This represents an opportunity for manufacturers to have a buffer when the U.S. economy is in a downturn.
The Global Tire Expo-Powered by TIA (Tire Industry Association) attracted 273 exhibitors, up more than 10 percent from 2012, according to Mr. Kersting, and there also was an increase in the number of educational and training sessions offered there.
We continue to work with TIA to realize the greatest possible value for attendees and exhibitors, he said.
In 2014, SEMA plans to continue expanding the SEMA Education Institute (SEI), the association head said.
The SEI, he said, already offers SEMA members a range of educational and professional development opportunities. This year its emphasis was on helping member companies integrate high-tech vehicle systems such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) into their activities, he said.
We had a very strong Vehicle Technical Center at the show, with keynote speakers and nine different panel discussions on vehicle technology topics, Mr. Kersting said.
The SEMA headquarters in Diamond Bar now also has fully equipped garage bays for extended high-tech vehicle sessions, including 3-D imaging, he said.
Meanwhile, SEMA's Wheel & Tire Council has developed a new relationship with the International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR) at Clemson University, according to Mr. Kersting.
Recently, the Wheel & Tire Council had 25 tire and wheel company executives join the SEMA Board of Directors at ICAR in a meeting to discuss two case studies sponsored by SEMA, he said. The case studies were designed to help the wheel and tire segment meet the suspension demands of ESC and other high-tech vehicle stability systems.
Just as SEMA is expanding its commitment to high-tech education and training, it is also continuing its efforts to enhance its members' businesses through marketing studies, Mr. Kersting said.
We are now engaged in additional research to help elaborate on our initial consumer segmentation report, he said. The 135-page original report appeared in 2012.
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