Events: 2023 SEMA Show

story & photos by Denis Podmarkov

It’s that time of year again when most of the aftermarket segment travels to Las Vegas for The SEMA Show. Primarily, SEMA is a trade show encompassing virtually anything and everything, so locating the Audi specific content in such a large mix is the goal. Beyond that, SEMA has signaled an intent to become more of an automotive festival in the future, bridging the gap between its traditional tradeshow format and Formula 1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix that debuted this year.

First, let’s focus on the show. It’s been a few years now since there was a virtual SEMA due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more aftermarket enthusiasts are coming back. But not everyone is returning. More and more OEMs are pulling out of SEMA, leaving room for aftermarket companies and media agencies. The crowd is there, just not the same one from a few years ago. The car show industry has already changed and that’s affecting SEMA too as more OEMs are shifting away from convention hall display events.

Hard to miss at SEMA is the Hoonigan Industries (formerly WheelPros) arena that included a wonderful selection of Volkswagen Group brand cars. Notably, it featured a widebody B5 RS 4 Avant with VW Golf harlequin-style, multi-color panel look and on Rotiform wheels. Not far from that was the JP-Performance (a household name in Germany) widebody VW Beetle inspired by the video game Gran Turismo. Our favorite part about that Beetle, and why it gets a mention, is the Audi 2.5 five-cylinder engine from the TT RS/RS 3 stuffed under the hood.

Moving over to the Thule booth, SEMA regulars, Allroad Outfitters has done it again. This time they brought a 2024 Audi Q8 e-tron, which was definitely one of the first Q8 e-trons we’ve seen sporting modifications. Not far from there was SeaSucker with their suction cup roof rack systems, and they had an e-tron GT as well.

There were multiple Audi R8s throughout the show and even a TT racecar, but we do have to mention there were fewer Audis this year than in previous years. This always brings up the question… why? Are fewer Audi tuners showing up for SEMA? Is there less aftermarket support for the new Audi models? Is the German automaker just not for the SEMA crowd? Whatever the reason, we know the prominent aftermarket brands that are constantly pushing new products for the brand. We just hope to see more of them at SEMA next year.

Also new for this year was Formula 1. The race was only about a week away and Vegas was in full effect. Even though there was no direct connection between F1 and SEMA, it was still the talk of the show. “Are you coming back for F1?” was a common question in conversations. Yes, there was more traffic, more road closures and overall delays, but it seems like most SEMA visitors were excited to get a glimpse of the track being built or see all the hotels getting ready for the big race.

During SEMA Show week, organizers did share a multi-year vision of how SEMA could expand into a more experiential model. No doubt that would help coax back car brands that still invest heavily in other experientialevents such as Monterey Car Week and Goodwood Festival of Speed. For SEMA, the idea would be to create an “all city” experience beginning with this year’s “SEMA Week.” For 2023, this included a new SEMA Fest at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds that extended through the following weekend.

SEMA thinks it can go further though. Setting the SEMA Show and F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix as tent poles, SEMA envisions a sort of two-week automotive equivalent to Austin’s SXSW festival. Within that timeframe, they see the possibility of a spectrum of events, from a new car show the scale of the North American International Auto Show in its heyday, to smaller club and niche events. 

That’s exciting news for all car fans should SEMA’s plan come together. Especially considering Audi’s stated intent to enter the F1 series, this would be exciting for all Audi enthusiasts. The intersection of high-performance aftermarket tuning, and the pinnacle of motorsport could create an unprecedented spectacle, drawing even more enthusiasts to all segments of the hobby.

As the SEMA Show continues to evolve, adapting to industry shifts and the changing landscape of automotive events, the blend of innovation and tradition becomes ever more apparent. Whether it’s the showcase of new products for electric vehicles or seeing a fully built ICE vehicle, SEMA remains a crucial platform for enthusiasts, manufacturers and aftermarket specialists to converge and celebrate their shared passion for automotive customization.

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