Now fully operational, SEMA Garage Detroit will welcome SEMA’s 7,000 member companies to test their aftermarket products and navigate the bureaucratic maze of emissions certification.
The facility will give member companies access to scanning services, a training center, 3D printers, and other advanced tools and equipment.
SEMA has its eye on the restomod market, convinced that some classic car owners will want to convert their vintage Camaros to battery-electric power, a heretical idea for many.
When shopping for aftermarket items for your car online, it might feel like the wild west as you browse the internet for rims, tonneau covers, floor mats, lift kits, running board lights, and more horsepower. The Specialty Equipment Market Association’s mission is to maintain some order in a world where any part you want can be shipped to your door within a couple of days.
A recent expansion beyond SEMA’s base in Diamond Bar (east of Los Angeles, the hub of all things aftermarket) places the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in metro Detroit, near to major automakers, their product development labs and, just as importantly, their component suppliers.
It was a long ride to Detroit: The SEMA team began researching the idea in January 2019, and by the end of the year, the board approved expansion into the new facility. The process was progressing in early 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire plan on the back burner in March of that year. Shopping in Detroit for the right place should wait.
About a year later, SEMA president and CEO Mike Spagnola and his team found (and purchased) an ideal location in Plymouth Township, northwest of Detroit, amid a growing group of automotive and tech startups.
Within three miles of the new location, Spagnola has identified 83 tier-one automotive suppliers or SEMA members with operations. It creates a wider network and the potential audience is huge.
It took 16 months to gut the Plymouth building and turn it into SEMA Garage Detroit. It has been operational since this month.
This 45,000-square-foot research and validation facility will welcome SEMA’s 7,000 member companies to test their aftermarket products and, from a powertrain perspective, navigate the bureaucratic maze of emissions certification so those products can be sold to customers. car enthusiasts.
This work has been done for the past nine years at SEMA’s facility in Diamond Bar, but there is a backlog of at least three months of emissions certification projects there, which is why this new facility in metro Detroit has become essential. It is three times the size of the Diamond Bar laboratory and has SEMA’s first four-wheel drive dynamometer, capable of 2500 hp. (Diamond Bar has a 2WD dyno.)
The California Air Resources Board recognizes the emissions lab at Diamond Bar, and in February, SEMA will submit final paperwork to CARB for approval of the new Detroit operation. Once approved, aftermarket companies eager to introduce new superchargers, intake manifolds, or exhaust systems can have those products tested and validated for sale in California and all other states.
Since opening in 2014, the Diamond Bar laboratory has helped manufacturers obtain more than 600 executive orders from CARB, more than any other test facility. Without an executive order (“EO” as they are known in SEMA parlance), a product cannot be sold. It’s like a golden ticket and extremely hard to get.
“If every T wasn’t ticked, every I ticked, applications were rejected,” Spagnola said Car week. For many years, aftermarket companies couldn’t find labs to do the certification work, or else the process would have been prohibitively expensive.
But you don’t want to bypass the legislative process and start selling products that haven’t been certified: “Fines for not completing that work are $37,000 per part sold,” says Spagnola. “And so our producers have been sued by the EPA and CARB and with significant fines. So they were in a really, really bad spot with this process.
The CARB certification process used to require two glacial years, but SEMA has reduced that to between three and six months. A CARB certified product can be sold in all 50 states. But federal certification will suffice for some products, and the new SEMA Garage Detroit is 20 minutes from the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, where engines can be tested for compliance in use and where fuels and fuel additives and exhaust compounds can be analysed.
It also helps that AVL, the world’s largest independent thruster simulation and testing company, is located a mile away from the new Plymouth Township lab and is supplying it with new equipment.
In addition to certification work, the SEMA Garage Detroit will give member companies access to scanning services, a training center, 3D printers, and other advanced tools and equipment. Members can use the center for product presentation, photography, and the production of how-to/installation videos.
The new facility will also host exclusive “OEM Measurement Sessions” where automaker engineers will be available to talk about quality, dimensions and specifications for upcoming new vehicles, so the aftermarket can be ready with new products to offer. to enthusiasts.
Ford’s popular new Bronco is a good example. Six months before it went on sale in 2021, SEMA at Diamond Bar got a Bronco from Ford so aftermarket companies could have hands-on access to computer-aided digital data for suspension, for example.
“We could provide suspension CAD data to manufacturers. They could make their changes in CAD, from that suspension data. They could then send us that file and we could 3D print those parts, install them on the vehicle and check how they work,” says Spagnola. A test drive of the prototype will follow.
Before SEMA offered this service, aftermarket component manufacturers used calipers and did extensive manual work on their products before even going into production. “You had to actually build a prototype,” without a 3D printer, “and then try and see if it fit,” he says.
At the SEMA Garage, Spagnola says manufacturers can develop fully functional prototypes in as little as two weeks.
In another example, SEMA was able to send the CAD data for a product to a member company in Japan that built fenders and body kits. “We scanned the vehicle in California and sent those files electronically to the manufacturer,” Spagnola says. “In Japan, that manufacturer built the parts, he sent them back to us and they fit perfectly. We can get CAD data to within 1/1000 of an inch, which is basically (the thickness of a) hair on your head.
A part of the new SEMA Garage will be dedicated to the increasingly complex segment of advanced driver assistance systems, such as blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control. A new venture for SEMA, this ADAS center will enable component manufacturers to achieve static calibration of on-board sensors, radars and cameras, which are key enablers of ADAS technologies.
The goal is to help SEMA members solve software/hardware hurdles while working on dynamic tests. Suspension kits that raise a truck or lower a vehicle affect (often negatively) the operation of all of these sensors. There are no industry standards to guide these component manufacturers, but an even bigger challenge is re-calibrating ADAS systems after a collision.
“So we worked alongside the collision industry to understand what it would take to develop a training center and a validation center,” says Spagnola. “So we built it here.”
The new SEMA Garage Detroit opens many doors in the aftermarket world, even in the emerging electrification sector. Spagnola and his team are keeping tabs on the restomod market, convinced that some classic car owners will want to convert their classic Camaros to battery-electric power, a heretical idea for many.
“We see this as a huge and thriving market for us and we are currently working with engine makers, battery pack makers, harness makers, all the electrical components needed to convert vehicles from petrol to electric,” Spagnola says.
Even before the Metro Detroit facility opened, the Diamond Bar Lab has helped SEMA members bring literally thousands of components into the aftermarket. With the added facility, the flow of new add-ons for your car should grow exponentially.
Do you spend a lot of time buying parts in the aftermarket? If so, share your experience in the comments section below.