As the automotive industry goes through one of its largest transformations in history, so too is the annual SEMA show.
An industry trade show for vendors, resalers, and the aftermarket known for booths full of turbochargers, exhaust systems, and wild over-the-top builds, SEMA is evolving and expanding. If all goes well and SEMA president and CEO Mike Spagnola can pull it off, the show will morph into a two-week festival of everything automotive. The vision is an automotive South by Southwest-like event.
SEMA typically spans three convention center halls in Las Vegas with well over 150,000 registered and credentialed attendees attending during a three-day period. This year marks the first shift for the show with the addition of SEMA Fest.
On Friday, for the first time in history, the show will open to the public. A $179 SEMA Fest ticket will grant anyone access to the show, all three million feet of indoor space plus the outdoor attractions. The ticket will also provide access to the drifting competitions, motorcycle jumping, micro circus, and more than 20 musical acts spanning Friday and Saturday. Headliners include Incubus and Imagine Dragons, among others. But SEMA Fest is just the warmup act, according to Spagnola.
The vision calls for a a two-week festival that kicks off with SEMA as the industry trade show we all know and ends with the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix. In between the kickoff and conclusion there would be the trade-show, SEMA Fest, a full Detroit auto show-like manufacturer show including vehicle debuts and ride-and-drives, car club gatherings from all around the world, and more.
“Just take over the city of Las Vegas and celebrate all things automotive, all things car,” Spagnola said.
Spagnola’s already spoken with the City of Las Vegas, Formula 1 organizers, hotels, and automakers. Everyone’s either on board or shown interest with no one saying, no, but firm commitments haven’t been made.
Spagnola said the Wynn Hotel’s already involved in the automotive scene with its own concours show. The hotel is interested in this vision and combining its existing show with this future.
“We recognize we can’t monopolize the whole town. It’s not about SEMA running everything,” Spagnola said. But the CEO notes that Las Vegas has the real estate and infrastructure for an expanded event. With SEMA and F1 already in the city and the timely nature of the two, it could all fall into place.
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