Title: SEMA 2012 report
Subtitle: Canadian exhibitors and visitors flock to industry event
Las Vegas NV - Canadian bodyshop professionals joined tens of thousands of visitors, exhibitors and media types at SEMA’s (Specialty Equipment Market Association) annual show, held this year again at the Las Vegas Conventions Center, during the last few days of October and the first few of November.
A substantial collision and repair component joined automotive re-furbishers and suppliers, who were brought together in a series of halls and outdoor booths, including many lining a makeshift outdoor in the adjacent parking lot, to demonstrate rebuilt vehicles.
“It’s sensory overload,” said a wide-eyed Mitch Peacock, of Edmonton-based Just Cuz’ Customs, of the hundreds of re-built specialty vehicles on display, many at booths of sponsoring suppliers. “We are a small niche shop, so attending is a major investment. But the creative ideas we get here, will fuel us for the rest of the year.”
Gary Gallant, vice-president (sales) at FBS Distribution, which will be sponsoring a vehicle that Peacock will re-work for next year’s show, agrees. “(SEMA) is a splendid platform to showcase products. For example this year we are introducing an innovative line of specialty tapes here, in order to get feedback from top industry professionals.” The new tapes will feature better elasticity, lower tack, and other features, that will enable painters such as Peacock to produce finer and more subtle artistic offerings. The new line will compete with 3M’s masking tapes, but Gallant claims not to be worried. “We are a targeted niche player,” he noted. “All we want that a smart part of the market we specialize in.”
AksoNobel is making similar efforts to develop new niches says Laura Costollo, its North American director of marketing (automotive and aerospace coatings products), by launching StickerFix, a paint-strip line, a do-it-yourself solution, which it was displaying at the show. As the description implies, the strips enable users to mask defects by covering them with a small tape–like strip, which matches the initial paint color. The company will be offering the strips in the most popular automotive colors each year, as well as a base strip that users of specialty paints can paint on, to create a backup supply, for later use.
Norton: a great showcase
“When we have new technologies to introduce we often do it here,” said Biagio Pellegrino, senior product manager (automotive aftermarket) at Norton, a 33-year industry veteran who has been attending SEMA longer than he can remember. “But the event also serves as a great source of industry news and developments. If you want to find out what’s new in the trade, this is the place.”
Pellegrino used his time at the show to talk up improvements to Norton’s Paint System with Spillguard. The company, which is already one of the world’s largest marketers of abrasives, introduced the new product four years ago to try to elbow into the growing reusable paint (can) market.
The new systems offers a variety of features, including triple-seal protection, a unitized lid/liner, quick connect lid, self-sealing valve, actuated adaptor and an extended filter area and space between the tower and filter for additional flow. “Innovation is key,” says Pellegrino. “In a changing industry such as ours, even small improvements when made consistently can make a big difference down the line.”
Networking, sponsorship announcements, catching up with trends
Many SEMA participants also leveraged the show to reconnect with industry peers, to share tips and discuss business trends, which continue to diverge on both sides of the 49th parallel.
“The United States economy seems to be bouncing back after years in the doldrums,” said David Kidd, a US-based product manager with Sherwin-Williams auto finishes. “However product mixes have changed as companies strive to keep up with shifting demand. Sherwin-Williams for example continues to do well south-of the border, at what Kidd calls the “opening (inexpensive) price point,” and has been selling more standard colors. “When times were booming we were producing a lot of specialty, exotic mixes,” said Kidd. “However these days, the demand is for more sober tones.”
Bod Leibel, director of sales and marketing at Sherwin-Williams’ Mississauga offices, nuances Kidd’s comments. “Canada, seems to be about (18 months) behind the economic cycle,” Leibel explains. “Canadians are only now just beginning to hit a rough patch this year, as people are postponing re-paint/repair decisions and many body shops are taking a hit.”
Sherwin-Williams responded here in Canada responded by introducing a new mid-tier line of solvent based products. Results have been promising, says Leibel. The line was launched in May and the company has so far landed more than 200 new accounts, all of which will be installing new tinters as well as mixing and other equipment, and many more are expected to sign on during coming months.
A spokesperson at Dupont, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed on background that competition was heating up. Dupont, one of the industry’s largest paint suppliers, which markets its products in Canada through an extensive distributor network, has responded by continuing to supply top notch products, coupled with a range of training, audit and other services to help customers perform more effectively.
BASF: Using special events to generate media buzz
As usual this year, industry suppliers used SEMA to showcase their sponsorships with rebuild professionals who displayed their latest successes. For example BASF held a heavily attended press conference to unveil a series of refurbished vehicles, generating considerable buzz by arranging for Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast Customs, and Mike and Jim Ring, of Ringbrothers, to pass by for autograph sessions.
According to Harry Dhanjal, Business Manager (Refinish Solutions Group), the volume of Canadian participants at SEMA appears to have bounced back, after a slow 2011, due to a split between the timings of the event, and the NACE show. NACE (the National (International) Autobody Congress & Exhibition), was held in New Orleans this year.
The good news at BASF is that activity is up, though Dhanjel has noticed softening demand lately. Many BASF clients, likely those throughout the industry face tougher competition as insurance companies right-size repair volumes to fewer shops, in exchange for price breaks. In addition Canadian paint and coatings continue to feel the effects of volume drops stemming from the industry’s ongoing shift to water-based products (which require smaller volumes).
That said, BASF continues to innovate said Dhanjal and, is developing new technologies that will help reduce stops in bodyshop workflows. The company is expected to announce a variety of initiatives such as new cleans and primers later this year.
The massive media coverage that SEMA 2012 generated was another indicator of the events success. More than 100 national and international print, radio, television and online reporters jammed the site’s press-room, and coverage at all levels was considerable.
Organizers of SEMA 2013 will have to work hard to top it.
1. SEMA organizers set up a makeshift track in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where exhibitors showcased and demonstrated their wares.
2. Harry Dhanjal, business manager (refinish solutions group) at BASF, poses with one of four cars whose rebuilds the company sponsored.
3. Gary Gallant, shows off a strip of FBS Distribution’s new line of custom tapes.
4. According to David Kidd of Sherwin-Williams, US consumers are starting to demonstrate greater confidence.
5.Biagio Pellegrino, demonstrating Norton’s new Paint System with Spillguard, says that SEMA is a great place to launch new products.
6. SEMA exhibitors competed fiercely to attract booth traffic, by displaying exotic rebuilt vehicles, that had conference goers swooning.
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Peter Diekmeyer Communications Inc.