Vegas in November

Jacques Gordon reflects on the 2011 AAPEX and SEMA Shows.


In the first week of November, most of the automotive aftermarket treks to Las Vegas for tradeshows, trade association gatherings and meetings. Over the years several shows and gatherings have come and gone, most notably the Automotive Service Association’s CARS and NACE shows that moved to Orlando just this year. But during my time in the industry, the two anchors have been the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX), and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) Show.

For the attendees wearing ‘Customer’ badges, the basic difference between these two shows is the products. The SEMA show is for people who build big-boy toys like race cars and show cars. Some of the SEMA customers are pros, but the overwhelming majority of the products is aimed at consumers.

The AAPEX show sells products for professionals. The show floor has everything you might find in a shop; parts and supplies, business products and services, and of course, tools and equipment. These range from hand tools and safety glasses all the way up to alignment racks, lifts and shop heating systems. The AAPEX show also offers training for professional techs and shop owners. Many pros go to both shows.

This is the show where companies spend the lion's share of their marketing budget, especially the AAPEX exhibitors. One reason for this is simply because it’s in Las Vegas. It’s not that the whole town is expensive, but the show and all the lunch meetings, cocktail parties, business dinners and other industry gatherings all take place “on the strip” or very near it. In this part of the world, even the barista at Starbucks doesn’t blink at making change for a hundred dollar bill.

But the real reason so many companies in our industry invest so heavily in AAPEX is because it’s The Big Show. As the New York International Auto Show is to the auto manufacturers, AAPEX is to the aftermarket: all the important players and a lot of important customers are all there.

In fact, that’s why we chose our “show issue” to introduce a new feature article called Tool Briefing (October 2011). The article is driven by real-world problems with specific vehicles, but instead of focusing on the fix, Tool Briefing is about how to use the tools called out in the service bulletin. The goal is to provide a better understanding of what the tools can do, avoid some common mistakes, and maximize the return on your investment.

Even without the Las Vegas setting, AAPEX would still be interesting, useful and fun. Maybe we’ll see you there next year. 

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