SEMA 2018 started off with a real bang along with the screeching of tyres as early morning drifting got underway. As the queues grew, the whole place was buzzing in anticipation and there was a real party atmosphere in the air. As this year was my first time at SEMA, I saw everything from a whole new perspective.

The sheer size and scope are mind-blowing and it appears there really is something for everyone – I’m sure you could have literally built a car with the combination of manufacturer and aftermarket parts across the multiple pavilions and outdoor venues at the Las Vegas International Convention Centre.

It seemed like everyone and anything in the automotive industry was in Vegas – there were street cars, muscle cars, custom cars and some of the best designers and builders on the planet, many of whom competed for the Battle of the Builders – as we said last year, “the cars are the stars”.

However, there were also more mechanical and collision parts on show than the eye could see – in fact, you had to go there with a plan of attack because if you wanted to stop at every one of the approximately 2 500 exhibits, you would have less than a minute with each – and that doesn’t include time to move between the halls!

Once again, there were a great deal of tools and equipment demonstrations, none more so than the I-CAR facility, which was set up for a variety of welding demonstrations where people could also try their skills. Jason Bartanen, who presented at Autocare in Sydney earlier in the year, was on the stand all week to share his knowledge and skills.

SEMA, of course, would not be complete without education, and it was the SCRS and their Collision Industry Repairer Driven Education programme that stole the show. There were over 20 seminars across the four days, culminating on three OEM Technology Summit sessions and the inaugural showcase event, IDEAS Collide.

The SEMA Show closed with the traditional SEMA Ignited, the official after-party, incorporating SEMA Cruise on the streets of Las Vegas around the convention centre and, once again, it was a mind-blowing event.

So, what caught my eye?

It was apparent from the outset that the major multi-nationals were out in force, with many of them creating a reason to stop and chat, whether it was products, cars, demonstrations, celebrities or announcements. 3M Showcased their latest collision repair technology, with demonstrations of the benefits of their Cubitron II abrasives and a live application of their innovative paint protection film technology.

The global coatings companies all took different approaches: PPG ran with a native American Indian theme named Camp Wannapaintem and included the 2018 Ridler Award winning ’57 Chev “Imagine”; Axalta partnered with Karma Automotive to show off their all-electric vehicle coated with Axalta’s specially formulated colours; the BASF stand was adorned with some of the best cars at SEMA showcasing the Glasurit technology; AkzoNobel’s focus was their F1 connections, announcing an extension of their 10-year partnership with McLaren; and Sherwin-Williams focused on the special effects of the House of Kolor, supported by founder Jon Kosmoski.

As the name of the show suggests, there was no shortage of collision repair equipment, including Snap-on and Car-O-Liner sharing a stand for the first time and showing off their latest benches and the recently released CTR-9 welder.

In addition, brands all too familiar to us in South Africa through the SAPE Group were also on show, with Celette showing off their Cameleon benches and GYS with their full range of welding equipment.

One could be forgiven for thinking we were at an international motor show as the big brands with strong presence in North America were all on full show. Chevrolet took a prominent position in the centre of the main hall with a full range of trucks, Camaros and performance engines; Ford took a full wall to show off their trucks, Mustangs and high-performance race cars; Kia-Hyundai displayed their full range and even had the Queensland Police pursuit vehicle on display; while Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota and Honda all made strong statements with many of their latest models on show.