SEMA awarded federal grant to pursue export market growth

US trade organisation SEMA has been awarded part of a $2.2m federal grant to expand exports of automotive aftermarket products. The organisation, which represents the $33B automotive specialty equipment market, will seek growth in Russia, the United Arab Emirates and China, among others, giving its 6,800-plus members increased opportunity in foreign markets. The grant was awarded under the Market Development Cooperator programme within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA). The body will assist SEMA with a new yearly fact-finding and sales mission to Russia; seeking regulations to allow US products equal market access by working with government officials; and organizing overseas vehicle measuring sessions in key emerging markets.

SEMA Measuring Sessions give member companies the opportunity to study and measure vehicles in order to develop quality products and accessories consumers can use to personalize and customize their cars, trucks and SUVs. The $300,000 portion of the grant allocated to SEMA will enable the association to expand the programme overseas and hold such measuring sessions in each market, augmenting its popular three year program of importing non-US vehicles to the SEMA Garage at its Southern California headquarters under special exemption.

For the programme’s initial phase, SEMA imported a Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger T6, Mitsubishi L200 and a UAZ Hunter, none of which are sold in the US but have strong followings in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, China and South America.

“As a global trade association, SEMA seeks to help member companies grow and expand their businesses,” said Linda Spencer, international and government relations director at SEMA. “One of the many ways SEMA helps its members grow is through exporting. For many of our members, exporting products to key international markets is integral to their success, and SEMA is available to help identify strategic markets and guide members along the way.”

US exports hit an all-time record of $2.3 trillion in 2013, and supported more than 11 million American jobs, according to the Department of Commerce.

SEMA’s Export Initiatives

Over the past two decades, SEMA says it has prioritised assisting SEMA-member companies diversify their customer bases, assisting its members in taking advantage of export opportunities as the global demand for the automotive industry’s products soars. The typical SEMA-member company has a relatively small staff and modest budget compared to larger firms, so SEMA’s export programmes and services serve as an extension to their staffs and provide global expansion resources.

For SEMA members, new geographic markets offer opportunities to create new revenue streams and reach new customers. SEMA cites numerous studies showing that exporters outperform non-exporters in terms of wages, productivity and innovation and, equally important, this diversification can make firms more resilient during economic downturns.

The organisation says it works to assist US companies to identify strategic markets and guide its members. Initiatives include international research to identify developing markets; working with international officials on legislative issues; creating venues for SEMA members to connect with international buyers; and trade missions to key countries throughout the year.

A partnership with the US Department of Commerce enhanced with a 2011 Market Development Cooperator programme award was a key factor to growing the range and depth of SEMA’s programs beyond the traditional markets to which US manufacturers export such as those in Europe, Australia and Japan. Since September 2011, nearly 300 US companies have travelled to China and/or the Middle East with SEMA, and/or have measured vehicles popular in key overseas markets but not sold in the United States in order to create export-ready product. Export sales by participants in its programmes in the Middle East and China have totalled nearly $50 million, SEMA says.

Thirteen SEMA member companies taking advantage of the expanded SEMA international programs have received Department of Commerce Export Achievement awards with additional awards expected to be presented at this year’s SEMA Show.

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