As a matter of economic formality, the North American automotive aftermarket really dates to the hot rod and custom car boom that followed World War II, and during which Robert E. Petersen and Wally Parks tried to organize it into a budding national industry. Their idea resulted in the formation of SEMA, which today stands for Speciality Equipment Market Association, and represents companies selling everything from paint to plug-in performance extras to the North American automotive aftermarket. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a regular contributor to PRI Magazine, SEMA’s adjunct publication, which focuses on the hardcore racing component element of this market. Annually, SEMA publishes a state-of-the-marketplace that’s must reading for industry decision-makers.
As the cover of the 2022 SEMA Market Report makes clear, this industry involves vehicles of every stripe, many of which were being built of modified while everybody was shut in due to the global pandemic in 2021. It appears undeniable that COVID helped to move the needle: According to SEMA’s research, something it does on an ongoing basis, the market’s total value in 2021 cleared $50 billion in annual revenue for the first time since SEMA started putting on hot rod shows in Los Angeles back in the late 1940s. That’s a staggering number, and it’s pretty cool to be able to report on this economically critical and vibrant business. The actual record, by the way, is $50.9 billion.