Auto shows and the SEMA Show are important in our off-road and backcountry-exploring world. At these shows, we see the latest and greatest. We then pass that information on to you, our readers. The exhibitors can show off their wares and sell those products to distributors worldwide.
The latest L.A. Auto Show was being called "The Carpet Show" because of the expanses of carpet where no vehicles were. Many exhibitors had stayed away.
The 2009 SEMA Show wasn't being called The Carpet Show, as SEMA brass had wisely closed off a portion of the South Hall's upper level, increased booth spacing and widened aisles, giving the impression that all was well in our automotive world.
There was some talk that SEMA was hiding the fact that exhibitor numbers were down and that the industry was in trouble. Those holding this view, while right in their opinion that exhibitor numbers were down a bit, were wrong about our industry and the SEMA Show. In fact, in my opinion, the 2009 SEMA Show was the best I've attended since the late 1990s.
As the economy boomed through the first years of the 21st century, our industry resembled the booming housing industry. New companies started up, many with no experience, which offered cheaply-built, shoddy products that didn't hold up well in the real world. In the feeding frenzy to grab some of the money that was flying around in those years, even companies that offered quality products were tempted to trade quality for quantity. These companies all had SEMA booths and the SEMA Show boomed, making the show hard to get around and, frankly, to endure, as you had to listen to many of these people trying to convince you that their cheap garbage was really the best ever manufactured.
As in the housing industry, most of these fly-by-nights went away as fuel prices soared and the economy melted down. GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy, reorganized, and even the very best aftermarket companies were affected as customers wondered where money was going to come from to buy groceries, let alone a new vehicle or the latest aftermarket part.
As always, change happened. Automakers came out of bankruptcy leaner and with exciting new vehicles in the offing. The aftermarket is also leaner, but with good, stable companies building quality products. This is one of the reasons SEMA was so good this year. Instead of spending R&D dollars to quickly introduce a new subflexive fasarta that no one cares about or needs, companies focused on quality. While there were some innovative new products to see, there were many existing products that were changed or improved.
Another reason SEMA was better this year was that with the increased width of the aisles, it was easier to get around the show. This sounds strange, but trying to push through thousands of people to get to a booth for an appointment, or to see something, can be tiring after a day or two and makes the show less appealing. Were there less attendees at this year's show? I'm not sure. The show was still crowded - just easier to navigate.
SEMA exhibitors that I talked to were happy with the show, too. They were making sales to distributors and told me that this was one of the best shows in years. This is a good indicator that our industry is healthy and set to grow. We now have stable, reliable companies offering better products than they ever have. If SEMA manages their show the same as they did in '09, we can again look forward to future SEMA Shows.