SEMA 2009. Less Exhibitors. More Custom Motorcycles. Hooray.

semacrowdJoAnn Bortles is a custom motorcycle and hot rod painter. She visited and worked at the recent Las Vegas SEMA (the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world) and confirmed to me that our motorcycle industry is still increasing its representation. Below what she has to say..    

“People do not normally associate the SEMA Automotive Trade Show with motorcycles. But I’ve been going to SEMA since 2004, always bringing some samples of my work to display and usually a couple of motorcycles to exhibit. In fact, in 2004 Chip Foose, who is known for his wild custom hot rods, also started to display elegant custom vtwins. For the 1st time this year SEMA set aside a section dedicated to custom motorcycles. This year, companies like Johnny Pag Motorcycles, Roland Sands, and Spyke/Compufire set up display booths.

sema1More builders also visited the event, this year Dave Perewitz, Brian Clock, Kris Krome to name a few were present at the show. In fact, its hard to walk down an aisle in the Main Hall and not see at least one motorcycle per aisle on display. But, you wonder. How the economy did affect the event?  Sure, there was more empty space than usual with less exhibitors showing up. But you could not really tell that from walking around the Main or North Halls. The aisles were full of people and most of the booths seemed to be extremely busy. At the House Of Kolor booth I displayed one of JRL Cycles’ airplane engined bikes that I had painted and 2 other custom bikes. The huge booth also displayed custom painted refrigerators, pinball machines, giant fishing lures (soon to be auctioned on via the House Of Kolor Website) with some of the most renown airbrush and pinstripe artists doing all day long demonstrations. This booth was all the time crowded during the entire week. , it was hard to get around inside. I also worked airbrushing at the SATA Spray sema2Equipment booth and it got busy all the time with a big crowd of spectators. I also noticed the presence of more “cross over” companies like Dakota Digital and Odyssey Battery that manufacture products for both cars and motorcycles. It seems to me that SEMA is now on its path to become as important for the motorcycle industry as it is for the car industry since the trade show creation“ JoAnn Bortles, Crazy Horse Painting.

Personal note: SEMA now provide a very comfortable Blogger Lounge. No more reason for me not to participate in 2010! See you there.

15 Responses to “SEMA 2009. Less Exhibitors. More Custom Motorcycles. Hooray.”

  1. 1 dynamic Nov 22nd, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    the bobber at the bottom was built by dynamic choppers… we have been displaying bikes at SEMA for six years with differnt vendors and surprisingly it has generated a few sales and a lot of good leads

  2. 2 Joey Nov 22nd, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    The V-Twin Expo should be part of the Sema. It would get a larger exposure (car guys love bikes and vice versa) and Las Vegas is evidently a lot more fun and warm in October than February. Just an idea…

  3. 3 Rider2 Nov 22nd, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    You have to be kidding me….
    I was at SEMA with some MC clients walking around. There were no motorcycle displayed the way it was “advertised” or pushed by a few in the industry for the past year. Johnny Pag makes “made in China”s bobbers that surprisingly were shown at $9000 when they were advertised at $4500 not long ago. There was one wheel manufacturer, DNA, JayBrake (whoaa) and a couple of bikes displayed around the area at various booths as “samples” of what a cool paintjob could be. Where were V&H, HD, CCI etc?? Those are the people from the MC industry, not DNA….

    The people going to SEMA want to see cars. I am sure they were happy to see a couple of cool bikes around but the “powersports” area was a pure joke. A couple of ATV, 2 or 3 very small booths of Taiwan, China parts manufacturers selling knock offs of mirrors and cheap primary drives. That’s it. I don’t recall any bike builders in the alleys or endorsing companies like last year.

    Whoever tried to make us believe SEMA would embrace the MC world doesn’t get the idea that even those 2 worlds are somehow connected, they don’t go together at shows. SEMA tried many years ago and it didn’t work and it’s still not working.

    SEMA was down in the numbers of vendors but attendance was about the same as last year. it was a great show all together. As far as motorcycles go, it was crap. Sorry JoAnn.

  4. 4 JoAnn Bortles Nov 23rd, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Rider2- People go to SEMA looking for many things. Sure folks go to SEMA to look at the cars, but people mostly go to SEMA looking for ideas and to network.
    Sure the majority of people attending are in the automotive trade, but many of those people in some way are connected to motorcycles, whether they own them or work on them.
    Case in point- this year I had a booth at both the spring and fall auto fair car shows here in Charlotte at the Speedway. About 1/3 or more of the people who came up to my booth, wanted to talk about paint on their motorcycle and this surprised me. Now sure I primarily paint bikes, BUT it was a car show. There was a steady flow of people at the booth and the Charlotte Auto fair is truly an automotive event. Which makes it seem like many people who are into cars are also into motorcycles.

    The NACE trade show, which caters to the auto body and paint trade, held at Mandalay Bay, lost a few of its big exhibitors to SEMA this year. In fact the NACE Show was considerably smaller this year. NACE used to be held in Florida and moved to Vegas in 2004.
    Will SEMA ever be anything like the VTwin Expo? Not likely. I remember when you had to go to Indy for its m/c expo and wade through all the sportbike and off road stuff to see the companies that catered to the Vtwin and custom bike trade.
    Cincy makes it easy to see what and who you need to see in the short space of one weekend if custom bikes are your business.

    Its just that each I attend SEMA, I see more m/c content. It will be interesting to see what happens next year at SEMA as far as m/c companies exhibiting. If there are less or more.

  5. 5 JoAnn Bortles Nov 23rd, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Sorry, its early in the morning for me. I meant to end with Its just that each YEAR I attend SEMA, I see more m/c content.

  6. 6 Tim Nov 23rd, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Have any f you all ever delt with the Auto industry as far as getting parts or supplies? Didn’t think so. I work for a Distribtor, we try our best to protect you the dealer. When parts get sold in the auto industry they go through jobbers which is anyone from the big parts houses to Fred wj\ho has been in the “Tinting/alarm/stereo business” about 3 hours. The new product you designed over the last 4 monthes and finall brought to the market is knocked of in “another country” in about 3 days. If you all think the M/C indusrty is whored up, you all better look at the Auto industry to see really whored up. Do you really want to compete with Fred in his tent in a Walmart parkng lot for your oil changes, tires, installing exhaust, etc……. My personnel take on mixing with the auto industry is like taking a beautiful women home at 3am and finding a the Bates women who had James Caan tied to to bed from the movie Stephen King wrote. You all are the self proclaimed leaders of this indusry, I caution you to be extra careful where you lead us. Times are tight I hope people do not give up a good thing for a dollar today that would have been $200 next year.
    Thank you

  7. 7 Vette Nov 23rd, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Definitely agree with you both Joann and Dynamic Choppers. I was in the auto customizing industry for years. I attended SEMA from 1990 – 2003. Truly the “Show of all Shows”. There were always nice custom bikes scattered around the event. Boyd Cottington’s huge booth had some cool bikes in it from time to time. It is a good place to get leads as more and more car customizers become bike customizers. Customizing is customizing whether it is on a boat, bike, or truck, people know they will see it at SEMA and definitely alot nicer venue than Cincy. A must do for all who love customs!

    Thanks for reminding us of that great event! Glad to hear it went well.

  8. 8 DNA Nov 23rd, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    This is to Rider2, I dont know how you are and don’t really care to know. I just wanted to reply to your comments about DNA. You say that DNA is not considered to be in the industry right?

    Well, lets see here…. First, DNA was recognized with an award of Frame of the Year at last years V-Twin Expo. Second, you state that CCI is considered in the Industry. Well, CCI is a large distributor of DNA products in the USA as well as Europe. I can go on and on but its not worth my time explaining this to you.

    I’ll just add this, DNA has been exhibiting at Sema for 15 years. DNA has also been exhibiting at the V-Twin expo since day one not to mention some of the largest rally’s like Sturgis.

    In fact, you most likely have a DNA product on your bike…..

    Thanks for acknowledging your wrong!

  9. 9 Kirk Perry Nov 23rd, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    “About 1/3 or more of the people who came up to my booth, wanted to talk about paint on their motorcycle and this surprised me.” – JB
    Can you please explain, how it can be – that I see C. Foose and other painters (on cable tv) spraying 2-part (poisonous isocyanates) primers and finishes in spray-booths, without them wearing a fresh suit and their eye’s safety shielded from “iso’s” being absorbed through the skin and tear ducts?

    Can a booth air-exhaust’s system be that efficient – even with using the HVLP (HighVolumeLowPressure) guns. Do those booth exhaust vent-to-atmosphere, or are they captured by filters. These painters act like they’re spraying lacquer. It looks like fun.
    Painting 2-part (w/clear) outdoors is a challenge. I wear a fresh air system uni, (and aqua-lung respirator, while mummy wrapped, head to toe, with a glass diving mask that covers my nose. I’m not breathing any of that 2-part catalyst. 🙂

  10. 10 Tony Larimer Nov 23rd, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    We at SATA had a highly attended booth at this year’s SEMA show. We had one of the most successful shows we have ever done. We had a great mixture of new products, useful information, cool custom cars, and yes, a pure one of a kind Kris Krome Chopper named SATAjet in our booth. The cars had their owners in and out of our booth. Chip Foose, and Mr. Mitch Lanzini of Lanzini Bodyworks. Both were graciously signing autographs. But Kris Krome also drew a huge amount of attention, signing autographs, and posing for pictures in our booth, as well as in the Hard Chrome clothing booth where he had his AMD Metric World Champion bike. Throughout almost every major booth, cars were very important, but bikes seemed also to be a major part of their displays. The bikes and builders above and in other blogs have already been named. But Kicker had some great rides too. The Perowitz bagger for Captain PHil of the Cornelia Marie etc…

    People were at this show to learn about the products that are needed to made great cars, great bikes, or to do their everyday work easier. By putting in a completely new section, called Paint Body and Equipment definitely was a draw for the collision and custom painting industry. Everything from drillbits that don’t break or dull, to English Wheels, brakes and shears were there to see and watch. Every type of polish for wheels, paint and whatever you wanted shiny could be seen and demonstrated. If you want parts or products for your cars, yes SEMA has it. But this year, seemingly more than ever, whatever you wanted for your bike was there somewhere. Of course the V-Twin is the place if bikes are your only passion, and it is an amazing show. But this year’s SEMA did offer bike lovers something to get ideas from. Ms Bortles made some great points.

    We will be back at SEMA next year again. We can’t wait to show off whatever we have in next year’s show. Hey Kirk, your work rocks!

  11. 11 Rider2 Nov 23rd, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    DNA, there is no doubt you’re part of the MC Industry. And I know you’ve been at SEMA for many years. We all know your products and we all know who carries them.

    I also know that showing motorcycles on paint and supply booths or next to a cool car is part of the marketing strategy and it goes well with SEMA and the SEMA crowd (remember SEMA is not open to the public so you’re only looking at buyers, owners, etc, not your average biker). I would surely hope people attending this show understand that a paint gun can paint a car or a bike.

    All I was saying is that YES, there were more bikes shown at the show and certainly an interest the same way you would have an interest if a bunch of booths for street rods parts manufacturers were purchased at the V-Twin Show. MC dealers would look at them the same way SEMA visitors looked at bikes during this event.

    My comment was more about the “fake” publicity that has happened for the past year or so, telling people of this industry that SEMA wanted a big motorcycle area, bring tones of vendors from the MC industry (CCI, Drag, etc…) and make a huge presence to show guys like the MIC that cars and bikes go together. To me it was not a success because all we saw were vendors that have been there for years (DNA, JayBrake etc…). There was no “exclusive” MC vendors, just the regular ones that make stuff for cars and bikes.

    To me it’s was marketing. If not, show me some numbers that the MC guys at signed up new dealers, and took orders after the show. If not, well, it was a nice presence but nothing get accomplished. Shows are meant to drive business, get leads and convert those leads into sales. Signing autographs and having your picture taken next to a car doesn’t pay the bills.

  12. 12 Mike Nov 24th, 2009 at 12:28 am

    SEMA was bugging me for months to be a vendor at the show… I declined. I’ve falled into that trap before of buying into the hype of a new show, then standing around for 3 days while nobody is there (or at least nobody is there that is a match to your reason to be there).

    It happened with the IMS shows in Phoenix, Houston and Fort Worth – absolute jokes of shows, but the folks from Advanstar will tell you the shows were great.

    So when SEMA called, I declined. I told them to get back to me when they had some success stories in my industry from SEMA, or were willing to give me a money back guarantee. If you won’t stand behind your product, you don’t believe in it… and if you don’t have the results to prove it’s great, I ain’t gonna believe in it either.

    SEMA’s MC show may be a contender in 5-10 years, but it would take a long time for it to happen.

    We’ll be at the V-Twin expo in Cincy, and the Dealer Expo in Indy. No other shows have ever proven to be worthwhile for us as a manufacturer mainly selling to dealers and through distributors.

  13. 13 JoAnn Bortles Nov 25th, 2009 at 8:38 am

    To Kirk,
    For the last 6 years I have worn a SATA fresh air respirator whenever I spray 2 part paints like primer and clearcoat. I started painting in the 70’s with lacquers and even then I should have worn more protection that I did. Funny thing I have always worn eye protection when painting.

    As far as Chip Foose and his show- In early episodes, that was a frequent problem. Later episodes, through apparent training by people from SATA and their paint suppliers, the custom guys all began wearing paint suits and supplied air full hoods.
    It is very true, a painter needs to be completely covered. You are correct, they can absorbe paint and the chemicals involved in painting through their eyes, skin, hair and lungs. A paint suit, a full hood, and gloves prevent our body from absorbing those toxins. Education is the key, and even the elite painters in the business can always learn. They seem to be headed down the right path, and are putting old bad habits behind them. That still means we have a ways to go to get everyone in the know. You made great points.

  14. 14 jim williams Nov 25th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    sema 2009 was an awesome show.coming from 13 years or racing myself it’s very easy to appreciate the automotive side. although i agree it is an automotive event eastcoastbikeworks/killerkreations displayed 15 bikes and one truck. 1o with dub magazine 5 with badger airbrush. also on hand was the unveil of the tap out hayabusa. although we certainly all agree most people are attending for the cars and trucks. people loved the bikes and we we’re glad to talk with them. also generated some work from the show. car or bike fan its an awesome place to be jim williams

  15. 15 ATV fanatic Apr 23rd, 2010 at 12:58 am

    What a huge crowd out there. For sure next time i will come to the gathering.

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