What does SEMA stand for? Difference between AAPEX and SEMA?

What does SEMA stand for? If you’re excited by things with four wheels and an engine, you might’ve wondered at some point “What is the SEMA show?” Keep reading, because we have everything you need to know about the annual gathering of gearheads right here.

What Does SEMA Stand For?

SEMA stands for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and the organization dates back to 1963. Then, it was called the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, and it was a small group of manufacturers that supplied parts and performance equipment to the hot rod community.

What does SEMA stand for

You might recognize some of the big names: Phil Weiand from Weiand Power & Racing, Roy Richter from Cragar Industries, Bob Spar from B&M Automotive Products, and Harry Weber from Weber Speed Equipment.

SEMA has grown to incorporate everything from manufacturers, warehouse distributors, sales agents, and subcontractors, to off-road manufacturers and media outlets.

The membership categories even include racing teams, car clubs, and special service organizations. SEMA has become an advocate for our passions, leveraging its voice to maintain our right as enthusiasts to build, modify, and operate vehicles on the track, street, and on the trail.

History SEMA Show

The first ever SEMA show was held in the basement of the famous Dodgers Stadium in 1967. The event was organized by Robert Petersen, featuring 98 manufacturers and was attended by 3000 people.

In the 1970s, government regulations were getting tighter, as a result of which SEMA had to change its name from Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, to Specialty Equipment Market Association.

Things were getting bigger over the years, so much so that during the 1976 SEMA Show at the Anaheim Convention Center, the organizers had to send back a few manufacturers due to lack of space. Since then, all SEMA shows have taken place at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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How Does SEMA Work?

Initially a trade show just for hot rods, over the years SEMA has begun to accept restored and modified jeeps, pickup trucks, sports cars, luxury cars, custom motorcycles etc. The SEMA show has also featured restoration brands, parts and equipment suppliers, aftermarket manufacturers, OEMs, distributors, media etc. It is usually held in the first week of November every year.

There is a catch though — the SEMA show is not open to the general public — you need to be an employee in an automotive company or the aftermarket industry to be eligible to attend the show.

However, you can attend the SEMA Ignite, known as the official ‘after party’ of the SEMA where all the cars and motorcycles displayed at the SEMA show will be featured once again for the general public.

SEMA is not just a display for car/bike builders, restoration experts and tuners, but also for OEMs who occasionally unveil or launch some new products. Celebrities who are known to be petrolheads also make appearances, such as Jay Leno, and Keith Urban.

Chip Foose, an automobile designer also known to appear on the reality TV series Overhaulin’, has won several awards and is now a judge on the Battle Of the Builds — the ultimate title sought after by custom car and bike builders, tuners, and resto-modders.

Entrants can choose from four categories to enter — hot-rod, truck/offroad, sport-compact, and young guns. They must then fill an online application, which will also require photos and a written description of the vehicle. Judges will select the Top 10 vehicles in every category, which will then come down to a final Top 12 list regardless of category.

These 12 finalists will then become judges and select amongst themselves as to who deserves to win the coveted title of the Top Builder.

Can Anyone Go To The SEMA Show?

The SEMA show is held every November in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it is not open to the public. The trade-only event is open to qualified members of the automotive industry. Industry members include buyers and sellers of automotive parts, vehicle manufacturers, aftermarket parts companies, and media outlets.

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What does SEMA stand for

How Do You Get A Car In The SEMA Show?

If your vehicle is owned or sponsored by an exhibiting company at this year’s SEMA show, then you may apply for a space, but there are rules. First, the application process begins many months ahead of the show, and the vehicle’s owner must provide detailed information including color photographs of the vehicle, its dimensions, as well as a photography release.

SEMA has regulations governing sign and decal placement, noise levels, amount of fuel present in the vehicle’s fuel tank, cleanliness of the vehicle, and relevancy to the industry. Feature vehicle space is also non-transferable.

How Many People Go To The SEMA Show?

The SEMA Show has been known to attract over 150,000 members of the automotive industry. The show occupies over a million square feet within the Las Vegas Convention Center and is packed with 3,000 new products, 1,500 feature vehicles, 2,400 exhibiting companies, and more than 3,000 members of the media.

Why You Should Attend the SEMA Show?

SEMA’s impact is not just about the number of attendees, exhibitors and visitors – it’s about their influence and buying power. Take a look at the numbers for SEMA’s attendees. Manufacturers flock to SEMA because of the assurance that the audience at the show will include people in positions of authority for leading brands

  • 162,000 industry professionals
  • More than 70,000 buyers
  • 87 percent of attendees have some role in the buying process, while 57 percent have the power to make buying decisions

For a first-time SEMA Show vendor, it’s useful to learn why buyers attend the trade show. This allows you to cater to their priorities in your booth, offerings, and pitch. SEMA surveyed attendees directly to ask what they hope to get out of the event.

How Big Is SEMA in Vegas?

The Upper South Hall is 464,658 square feet and is approximately 1,690 feet end-to-end. The Empire State Building is a “mere” 1,454 feet tall including the spire. If you could somehow lay the Empire State Building on its side with its base at the entrance to the Upper South Hall, the tip of the antenna would end near the back wall.

The 2023 show includes the fairly new West Hall expansion. It brought another 1.4 million square feet of available exhibit space. The other halls combine for over 2 million net square feet of available exhibit space.

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There are 1,500 feature vehicles scheduled and over 3,000 products featured in the SEMA Show New Products Showcase, located in the Skybridge between the Central Hall and South Hall.

What does SEMA stand for

The historical pre-COVID size of the SEMA Show, by the numbers:

  • 71,000 companies with buyers at the show.
  • 3,300 media representatives representing online digital and print publications.
  •  2,400 exhibits.
  • Over 3,000 new products in the New Products Showcase.
  • Attendees from 140 countries.
  • 4.6 million square feet of interior exhibit space, 2.2 million square feet of outside space.

As the pandemic recedes into history and travel returns to normal, we’re hoping future SEMA Shows will be just a big as it has been historically.

How Long Is The SEMA Show?

The SEMA Show takes place every fall, usually beginning in early November or late October. The SEMA Show is a 4-day show, Tuesday through Friday. There is an education day with various seminars and meetings on Monday.

What Is The Difference Between AAPEX And SEMA?

The SEMA Show and AAPEX often happen concurrently in Las Vegas and are both trade-only events, but how are they different? AAPEX stands for the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, and the show is generally smaller and more focused on aftermarket products.

The SEMA Show is where you’ll likely find rows and rows of feature vehicles, whereas the APEX show is focused more on the industrial side of the automotive industry.


What is the purpose of the SEMA Show?

The SEMA Show is the premier trade show geared to helpsmall businesses thrive and succeed. The trade-only event enables automotive specialty equipment manufacturers to display alongside automotive manufacturers to debut new, innovative products, and connect with industry buyers from all over the world.

Can anyone attend SEMA?

It’s not open to the general public. To get into SEMA, you must work in the specialty equipment industry and you need documentation that proves you’re in the industry. This is required if you register online or in person at the SEMA Show. The SEMA Show is not open to the general public and is a trade-only event.

How much does it cost to be in SEMA?

SEMA offers its 7,000+ member companies a variety of business tools and resources to help their business succeed and prosper. SEMA membership dues range from $100 to $2,000 per year and are based on your company type and annual sales.

Above is information about What does SEMA stand for? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of How does SEMA work? Thank you for reading our post.

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