SEMA Overwhelms, but It’s the Best Thing Going

The SEMA show is such a beast that it’s hard to get a handle on it. The pocket-sized guide to exhibitors is 200 pages long; that’s 2,100 companies somehow involved in the automotive aftermarket. “I had a couple first-timers ask me what they should do first,” the shuttle-bus driver told me as she looped between the north and south halls of the convention center. “I told them ‘leg stretches.’’’

That doesn’t mean you’ll be looking at tires all day, though you certainly could if tires turn you on because the lower level of the south hall is full of them. That’d be the Global Tire Expo, heaven on earth for fans of rubber.

The whole thing is a gorgeous, ridiculous spectacle, and wandering around it I found myself wondering who on earth right now has enough money to build, for example, a blown, chromed, customized classic 1969 Dodge Charger to sell stereo speakers. Then I remind myself that’s not the point. This entire industry is about the bling—no one needs a brand new 1965 Mustang body or a flat-screen-TV-equipped tent that mounts on top of your car—so cheaping out would be a bad business call. (Although the New York Times says this year’s show is tamed down compared to years past.) 

SEMA’s probably the hottest ticket in town right now, probably because it’s industry only and the great unwashed can’t get in. And yes, you are missing something cool.