This past week I was in Washington for SEMA’s biannual DC Rally.
SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) is the trade association that represents the automotive aftermarket. It is made up of 7,500 member companies; most of which are small businesses. In fact, the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas is the largest gathering of small businesses in the US. And while the individual companies may be small, the automotive aftermarket in total accounts for $32 billion in sales annually.
I’ve been on the Board of Directors of SEMA for the past seven years and will finally be terming out in July. There was a board meeting in DC in conjunction with the Rally, but the main purpose for being there was to keep this industry and this hobby top-of-mind on Capitol Hill.
I had meetings with the two senators from Indiana, Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, as well as the congressman from my district, Brad Ellsworth, to discuss issues that affect our industry like health care costs for small businesses and tax credits on capital expenditures and R&D.
This may seem like sort of boring stuff, but there is a direct correlation between the strength of the car hobby and the health of the aftermarket. The hobby is as strong as it is today at least in part because of growth of the automotive aftermarket. Twenty years ago we couldn’t do the restorations, the rods and the mods we can these days because the parts simply weren’t available. However, the demand was there, and leave it to American entrepreneurs to create products (and entire businesses) to meet that demand. Actually they fuel each other; the hobby is strong because the aftermarket is strong and vice versa.
SEMA has a Washington office that is dedicated to keeping legislation “hobby friendly”. Many of you (or perhaps your car clubs) are members of the SEMA Action Network (SAN); a grassroots network that stays on top of local issues and that can be rapidly mobilized when we need to make our collective voice heard in Washington.
As it turns out, there are a lot of car guys (and gals) in congress. There is even an official automotive caucus that currently has 91 members, and I believe about four more were recruited over the course of the DC Rally. In fact it was with the help of this caucus in concert with the folks in SEMA’s Washington office that the Senate recently passed a resolution designating July 9, 2010 as National Collector Car Appreciation Day. And in a time almost completely devoid of bipartisanship, this passed on a unanimous vote!
These are contentious times politically and it’s hard to get agreement on anything in Washington right now, but fortunately we can all agree that collector cars are cool. Maybe we’re not so different after all.
Now get those collector cars out on the road on July 9!