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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Las Vegas playing host to automotive trade shows

2 November 2015

Las Vegas takes on a little Detroit ambiance this week when it plays host to Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week and two trade shows that will draw more than 140,000 people to Southern Nevada.

The four-day Specialty Equipment Market Association show at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo at the Sands Exposition Center both open Tuesday. Exhibits at SEMA open Tuesday, and AAPEX has a day of seminars before opening its trade show Wednesday.

An estimated 2,400 exhibitors representing the $36 billion automotive aftermarket industry, including 500 companies here for the first time, will appear at SEMA, and 2,200 manufacturers will have their products on display at the Sands Exposition Center.

Both shows deal in the automotive aftermarket, but AAPEX is considered a market for replacement products while SEMA is more about vehicle customization.

SEMA, in its 49th year, is one of the rare Las Vegas trade shows that invites local residents in for a look on its final day. SEMA Ignited, an after-party event that rolls out products at the Convention Center Gold Lot at Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive from 3-10 p.m. Friday, allows enthusiasts, hobbyists and consumers a chance to see what buyers were viewing the previous three days.

The second-ever SEMA Ignited is free to people with student or military identification and $20 for the public. Because displays will be in the parking lot, show officials recommend that the estimated 20,000 attendees park offsite and ride the Las Vegas Monorail to the event. Nearby surface parking is available at the Clarion lot west of the Las Vegas Marriott and the Peppermill Restaurant lot.

SEMA Ignited also will be the ending point for a parade of 1,000 customized cars displayed during the show, called the SEMA Cruise. The event features the conclusion of the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.

"SEMA Ignite provides the opportunity to see the SEMA show without leaving your lawnchair," said Peter MacGillivray, vice president of events and communications for the show.

This year's SEMA won't be the largest, but that doesn't matter to MacGillivray. To him, the emphasis is on quality.

"We try very, very hard to de-emphasize size and concentrate on quality," MacGillivray said, "and our efforts are on improving the quality of the experience."

That said, SEMA will be the largest annual gathering of small business in America, and the new-product showcase will be 50 percent larger than a year ago with 3,000 new products on display.

The showcase, to be located on the skybridge section over Desert Inn Road between the Convention Center's Central and South halls, will be near the show's media headquarters, assuring high visibility to the 3,000 automotive journalists expected to attend.

"The showcase is more work for exhibitors, but it also generates more leads and more foot traffic to the booths," MacGillivray said.

SEMA and AAPEX are expected to be the second-largest trade show draw by attendance on this year's Las Vegas convention calendar behind the January Consumer Electronics Show. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates the shows will generate a $199.2 million economic impact on the community.

Among the 140,000 people expected to attend the shows are 60,000 buyers looking for new aftermarket products to sell in their stores and visitors from more than 130 countries.

The SEMA show includes more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space and an additional 1.5 million square feet of attractions throughout the convention center and the neighboring Westgate Las Vega Resort & Casinos. About 1,500 one-of-a-kind project vehicles occupy exhibitor booths to demonstrate how products are used or displayed.

This year's show will be the first to use a new 70,000-square-foot performance pavilion venue just east of the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel. It'll be used for outdoor exhibits.

The shows are open to automotive industry professionals, and attendees who sign up for one show are allowed to attend the other at no extra charge. Because there is expected to be an abundance of bus and shuttle traffic moving attendees between hotels and convention centers and between venues, streets around the convention center and the Sands Exposition Center are expected to carry heavy traffic.

SEMA has had a long and prosperous history with Las Vegas.

Los Angeles promoter and automotive magazine publisher Noel Carpenter organized the first Speed and Custom Equipment trade show, not sponsored by SEMA, in 1965. When Carpenter moved his show to Las Vegas in 1966, SEMA staged its first show beneath the stands of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

SEMA expanded its show to Anaheim, Calif., in 1974, then, needing additional space, shifted to Las Vegas in 1977. SEMA assumed full control of the event from Peterson in 1982, and it became an annual staple on Las Vegas' convention calendar.

In 1992, organizers of other aftermarket shows collaborated to brand Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week.