With luck, we'll get back to the real thing in 2021.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) held off for several months as the novel coronavirus continued to spread in the US before finally declaring its 2020 trade show officially canceled last month. At the time, SEMA left the door open to a "virtual tradeshow with related live elements" to effectively take the usual in-person SEMA Show's place.
Now, we can report that the annual SEMA Show is being reborn as SEMA360 - a completely digital trade show that will be held online from November 2 through 6. SEMA is promising a simple, streamlined platform where it will "help manufacturers create a straightforward brand presence that will reach quality domestic and international buyers."
"SEMA360 is the ideal solution to bring the industry together, at a time when we've all been kept apart," says SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. "The platform allows qualified buyers to interact with manufacturers, see innovative new products, check out top SEMA Show builds, and take in industry-leading educational offerings."
Just like the in-person show, SEMA360 won't be open to the general public - just manufacturers, members of the press, and qualified buyers. Even with those rules, the annual SEMA Show regularly manages to draw massive crowds well in excess of 100,000 people; last year's show saw some 162,000 people attend, with exhibitions from roughly 2,300 vendors.
SEMA360 promises "vehicle reveals from world-class builders" just like the real-life show, so none of the slick custom Chevrolet Corvette C8 and Toyota GR Supra builds that groups have been working on will go to waste.
SEMA's cancellation is just the latest in a long line of auto show cancellations in the time of Covid. The trend started with the Geneva Motor Show before claiming New York, Beijing, Detroit, and Paris. But SEMA is the first canceled show to announce a virtual alternative; in other cases, automakers were forced to plan their own virtual reveals to make up for the in-person events.
Still, with luck, next year will see the return of the real thing.