A Seattleite takes on SEMA 2016

I had a chance to head down to the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show held in Las Vegas, Nv.

It felt like a rite of passage that every other automotive journalist I’ve spoken to has been through. I’d asked questions and been given advice (wear comfy shoes and clothes), but nothing quite prepared me for the vast scale that is SEMA.

2016-sema-show-057More than 2,400 exhibitors packed themselves into 5 convention halls and three exterior pavilions and the entirety of exterior spaces between. More than 1.2 million net square feet filled with automotive-linked parts, technology, and over 1,500 concept creations.

And within all that, more than 140,000 attendees, and upwards of 3,000 media covering a $39.2 billion industry. There weren’t just exhibits, but also seminars, product training, demonstrations of new vehicle technology, and burnouts… lots and lots of burnouts (experience booths courtesy of BMW, Ford and Chevrolet).

First thing I learned was that it was chaotic. The shows covered by The Auto Reporter were 1/10th the size of SEMA and much further spaced out between the exhibitions. This was jam-packed cars, trucks and other exhibits, so much so that I didn’t even get to see it all.

It was just too much. Sensory overload was guaranteed, but it was so worth it. I took away some great experiences at SEMA.

I live-tweeted (via the @Deanna_Isaacs twitter handle) the first car show in collaboration with Trucks.com, the reason I were there. Instantly sharing creations that inspired me to stop was an enjoyable, automotive catharsis (many, many more were stop-worthy, but I couldn’t catch them all…).


I was one of the first people to hear the guttural throb of the new Chevrolet Camaro variants, I witnessed Rutledge Wood unveil the Toyota booth and was inches from the Ford GT that won the 2016 Le Mans.

The first day, though, I spent roaming the central hall bouncing from one auto maker conference to another. I even played Sonic the Hedgehog from a Sega-themed Civic concept during a brief stop at the Honda booth after chit-chatting with Davis Adams, Honda rep., about the impacts of concept vehicles.

2016-sema-show-123The second day started with a jar of Mocha Starbucks while drooling coffee near a pair of Mazda MX-5 concepts – best way to start a car show day ever. Hands, down. Full stop.

I borrowed my husbands tablet and worked from a Bluetoothed, folding keyboard most of the day; keeping my load light and nimble in the over-packed walkways.

There were separate sections or high-performance cars and then a truck and off-road section, which is where I spent the most time.

The evenings weren’t so exciting, as they were spent writing articles from various locations.  Vegas is a… distracting place to write, though, and the best place was in my hotel room. Which was nice, since there wasn’t much noise and it had a great view.

By the third day, I had car show whiplash from all the squirrel-minded ‘Oh, cool’ moments. Customs inspired by colts, cars embossed all around, engravings on body panels, and so much more that this could easily be a 1,500-plus word story (but it won’t).

Three days I spend roaming the halls of SEMA and can’t wait for next year. It is an insane automotive festival of parts, customs and concepts, small business owners to schmooze with, and more. I hope I get a second chance to go next year, as it was a uniquely incredible automotive experience.

We’ll see how much of this is topped at the upcoming trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show. Follow me on Twitter @Deanna_Isaacs, and my outlet during the shows @Trucksdotcom. Also, check out the three stories that came from our time in Vegas.

And, now, for what you’ve been waiting for: The photo gallery. (Note: This gallery is 195 photos strong. Go make yourself a cup of coffee, take a shower… do something to kill like 20 minutes of time while all these load. No, seriously. Go.)