Especially for a first-time visitor, the Specialty Equipment Market Association show seems designed to overwhelm your senses.
SEMA is enormous, crowded, loud, brash, chaotic — and, once you get the hang of it, a lot of fun. It probably wouldn't work as well anywhere else as it does in Las Vegas.
My tour of the trade show last month provided an explicit reminder that the auto products on display — aftermarket accessories, parts, tools, components — make up a huge industry, amounting to tens of billions of dollars a year.
And for franchised new-vehicle dealerships, this industry is just one of the elements of their fixed operations, along with customer-pay maintenance and repair, factory warranty and recall work, collision repair and reconditioning.
It's no secret that service, parts and body shop sales contribute the largest share of a typical dealership's total gross profit — 48.5 percent this year, the National Automobile Dealers Association calculates, nearly as much as new-vehicle (26.3 percent) and used-vehicle (25.2 percent) sales combined.
And as industry projections show new-vehicle sales and profits continuing to stall and even decline for the next several years, dealerships will be relying even more on their service departments to keep them in the black.