Only days after saying the show must go on, the Specialty Equipment Market Association has tossed in the towel, announcing that it has cancelled the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Originally scheduled to take place from Nov. 3–6, the event joins a long and growing list of automotive gatherings that have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has now killed at least 160,000 Americans. That includes the New York, Paris and Detroit auto shows, as well as classic car gatherings such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that had been scheduled for later this month.
“While both event organizers and industry members have been working tirelessly to deliver an outstanding SEMA Show in November, mounting uncertainty has rendered continuing with the event inadvisable,” SEMA said in a statement attributed to the trade organization’s President and CEO Chris Kersting.
“While we are disappointed circumstances prevent us from hosting the Show in November, we look forward to getting everyone together in 2021 for another outstanding event,” Kersting said directly.
The industry’s hope is that the coronavirus crisis will be under control by November 2021 but there is already growing concern about just how long it will continue. Notably, the Consumer and Electronics Show, like the SEMA Show based out of the Las Vegas Convention Center, has itself converted its January 2021 event from an in-person event to a “virtual” show online. CES has become a major showcase for the auto industry, especially when it comes to high-tech vehicles and infotainment and safety technologies.
The 2021 Geneva Motor Show, originally planned for late February and early March, also has been scrubbed due to the pandemic, and industry watchers are beginning to question whether the big Chicago Auto Show scheduled for earlier in February will be able to take place next year.
The SEMA Show has become one of the largest trade-oriented gatherings in the auto industry, attracting several hundred thousand visitors and thousands of companies, large and small. It covers everything from suppliers of in-car air fresheners to performance parts suppliers. Automakers including Ford, General Motors, Kia and Toyota also have been using SEMA both to debut new products while emphasizing their performance parts catalogues.
Organizers had been hoping to find a way to let the show go on, issuing a statement barely a week ago to that effect while outlining safety guidelines that called for all visitors and exhibitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing. The latter mandate would likely have proved difficult at an event that traditionally packed in attendees shoulder-to-shoulder.
The Wednesday announcement, said SEMA was meant to “bring clarity to an uncertain future (to) help exhibitors, attendees and partners plan accordingly.”
The pandemic has hammered the auto industry, U.S. new car sales tumbling by as much as 50% in March, though the industry was down a much more modest 20% in July. What happens going forward is far from certain as COVID cases are on the rise in at least 30 states and there are concerns new public lockdowns may be necessary.
Ironically, there are some bright spots. Used car sales have actually rebounded strongly, though prices have also gone up sharply.
There’s also a potential boom market developing for the automotive aftermarket, especially for service and replacement parts, noted AlixPartners in a recent study. That’s because many motorists will be keeping vehicles longer and will need to perform more maintenance to keep them running.