Are Some Major Players Getting Cold Feet About SEMA?


With a rise in COVID-19 cases in Clark County and the State of Nevada’s indoor facemask mandate again in full force, there are understandably some concerns among collision repair-related companies about whether or not to participate in the 2021 SEMA Show.

The situation has changed dramatically within the last two months, and when you throw in the fact many attendees from Canada and Europe will be prohibited from entering the U.S. for the show, it’s not surprising both exhibitors and attendees are looking for the exit doors or contemplating alternatives. On Aug. 31, Spanesi SpA and Spanesi Americas, Inc. decided to remove their exhibit from the Show, scheduled for Nov. 2-5, in Las Vegas, NV. Their name can now be added to a list that already included Sherwin-Williams and PPG, two companies who chose not to sign up for this year’s show.

Other companies are searching for a compromise, so they can still participate, but on a smaller level. One of these companies is Dan-Am Company, exclusive distributor of SATA in the U.S.

SATA’s Director of Sales & Marketing Tony Larimer knows the value of SEMA to the industry, but also wants to take a sensible approach to our “new normal” way of life. Usually, SATA has a large exhibit at the show, but it is presently considering a smaller booth and a skeleton crew to send to Las Vegas in November.

“We usually send 60 to 70 people to SEMA, but with all of the factors in play this year, we are looking at possibly getting a considerably smaller booth,” Larimer said. “The most important thing is everyone’s safety, of course, but we also have to look at it financially as well. We invest a ton of money and resources into this show every year, so we have to think about the return on investment, especially if a lot of people won’t or can’t attend SEMA this year.”

Larimer and his team haven’t made a decision yet and are currently in negotiations with SEMA representatives, he said.

“SEMA is a huge part of this industry, so if we can still exhibit on a smaller scale, we see the value in it. Right now, we have a lot of questions and SEMA is working hard to accommodate us, so we will keep everyone informed as soon as we know the details.”

Spanesi Americas COO Tim Morgan said opting out of SEMA wasn’t an easy decision.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of Spanesi's customers, distributors, business partners and staff, we have made the difficult decision not to participate in the 2021 SEMA Show," he said. “The SEMA Show is the cornerstone of our marketing activities. We always enjoy greeting our current and new customers every year in our booth.”

Unfortunately, given the current environment, Morgan’s decision to withdraw was inevitable, he said.

"We wish the entire automotive industry health and safety as we all continue to adapt our business operations. Spanesi has been a fixture at the SEMA Show since 2012, and we look forward to seeing everyone again in 2022 with a whole new booth and new equipment offerings.”

SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso firmly believes this year’s show will happen in early November.

"The landscape with the COVID pandemic is changing frequently,” he said. “Those changes, coupled with uncertainty with international travel, has caused some companies to have to make the decision to not attend the SEMA Show this year.

"We’re excited that we have five halls full of exhibitors confirmed, and tens of thousands of buyers already signed up to attend the upcoming SEMA Show. There is pent-up demand for an in-person event this year, and we are committed to providing the industry with the best Show yet," Gattuso continued. "In-person connections are important and valuable and something that cannot be replaced, and this year’s SEMA Show will offer unlimited business opportunities, new programs and features, and networking events that will set up businesses and attendees for future success."

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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