Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reflections on SEMA - Local Motors Campaign to Home Depotize this nation of car nuts

As many of you know, we recently returned from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade convention in Las Vegas, NV. There is so much to see at SEMA that it is simply impossible to take it all in. Millions of square feet of exhibition space, 100s and 100s of thousands of visitors and exhibitors all displaying their specialty wears for the automotive aftermarket industry.

The back-bone of SEMA is the small business and WOW did we see many of them. So inspiring. So motivated despite the troubles in the Global Economy. We had about 4 hour long conversations each day for about 5 days, making roughly 20 strong contacts. The rest of our visits were quick fly-bys, but nonetheless meaningful in terms of seeing what is out there.

Perhaps the most thunderous thing that I noticed hit me in one of those "Forest for the trees" moments. SEMA is about cool and different cars, but ALMOST NOBODY at the show produces cool and different cars for regular purchase by the public. OEMs are at the show, but they are the furthest thing from cool and different. Perhaps Factory Five Racing is the ONLY exhibitor with this job description in the entire show.

(A classic SEMA show car. SUPER cool, but not available for purchase in volumes of anything over 1)

(Factory Fives new '33 Hot Rod at SEMA but available now for $19,990 to the general public.)

So what? Well, isn't it fundamentally curious that a show about incredible cars has almost no examples of people who build just that.

Then I realized what a Home Show must have looked like before Home Depot or Lowes hit the market. If you have ever been to a Home Show, you would know that they are the one stop shop for all your Home and Garden remodeling needs.... but no one vendor actually sells homes or everything it takes to build a home. To recognize them today, you might say that they look a whole lot like an expanded Home Depot or Lowes but that would be revisionist history as they were around well before such businesses.

(www. ACShomeshow.com)

Interestingly enough, these two retailers understood the power of this aggregation of home wares and created a retailing vision which gave people a reason to rally around their home and garden and to take care of those items in a do-it-yourself way, but with a much more professionalized tool base and product set. Home Depot and Lowes did not supplant the large Home Shows, but rather they expanded the market and now sponsor such major events as ACS Home Shows.

(www. ACShomeshow.com)

It is this historical pattern that I think applies most directly to what Local Motors is doing to the specialty auto market. In 5-10 years, LM intends to be to SEMA and to the automotive market, what Home Depot is to the Home Shows and to the home market. We want to expand and improve the product set for all people rallying around a new type of American automotive experience. This is my reflection on SEMA and this is our Vision.

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