But will it ever actually die?

There’s been plenty of talk lately about what’s happen with the SEMA Show. While SEMA as an organization has been around since 1963, the annual show didn’t begin until 1967. For a long time, it was attended only by those in the industry, the public barely even aware of its existence. But in the past two decades the spectacle has grown and so has attendance as the public has been increasingly let in the doors. Now, automakers are starting to abandon the event, so some are wondering if the SEMA Show is on death’s doorstep.

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For now, GM, Ford, Honda, and Hyundai won’t be hosting displays at the 2022 SEMA Show. If you’ve been, you know how much space those four automakers take up, so there’s no spinning this as anything but a huge loss for the event. We’ll see how much of a damper it puts on everything in November, but don’t think for a moment there’s serious talk inside SEMA about what’s going on and what to do about it. Having any more automakers pull out of the show will only further damage things.

Back in the day, automakers didn’t have displays at the SEMA Show. Could the events march on if all automakers pulled out? Sure. There are still plenty of aftermarket parts companies and builders to make it viable, although the show would be quite a bit smaller. The automakers also spend big, so the shows wouldn’t be quite as big of a spectacle. In fact, with those four missing this year, there likely will be a conspicuous diminishment for anyone who attends.

But is it time to panic? No, not yet. Some think with EVs just roaring onto the market the writing is on the wall. First of all, look at the actual sales figures for electric cars in North America overall for each year, instead of carefully cherrypicked data, before drawing such a sensationalized conclusion. That’s akin to say the kids these days don’t like cars – that’s been proven false yet some are saying the same old thing they’ve been repeating for over a decade.

More of a potential threat is the very aggressive EPA we have today. Under current leadership, EPA agents armed with guns and badges have been raiding speed shops in search of “emissions defeat devices” which can be surprisingly benign components. Many of you reading this likely have such a thing installed on your car, which isn’t polluting anymore than it did straight off the factory line, and that’s where this aggressive enforcement of government regulation becomes insulting and infuriating. Left unchecked, it threatens to upend the whole industry. Why isn’t the EPA going after shops that sell leaf blowers, which in some cases pollute more than a truck?

Covid has been blamed for upending everything in the world, including SEMA. Temporarily, this is a believable culprit, but for most the pandemic was done a long time ago. People just aren’t fearful to go out in public without wearing five masks, a hazmat suit, and three sets of gloves. And with the federal government finally dropping covid testing requirements for international travelers, more people will be able to attend this year’s show. So covid can’t be blamed for everything forever.

Finally, we have the big, bad internet to blame. After all, it’s been responsible for closing all kinds of stores and it supposedly was going to change how you buy a car. Only, the Carvana/Vroom revolution of the industry has stalled some. And while automakers certainly are using online events to reveal cars and some of those who withdrew from SEMA are going to try out some virtual events to show off their factory customization options, it’s just not the same. You’re not walking through the convention center in Vegas, all your senses completely overwhelmed as you meet all kinds of other people face-to-face.

If the SEMA Show is dying, it will probably be a long, agonizingly slow demise which will coincide with all the other automotive shows around the world. In other words, I just don’t see that happening anytime soon, if ever.

Photos via SEMA

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