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 provide member companies with access to scanning services, a training center, 3D printers and other state-of-the-art tools and equipment.
SEMA is keeping tabs on the restoration market, convinced that some classic car owners will want to convert their vintage Camaros to battery electric, a notion of heresy to many.
When shopping online for aftermarket items for your car, it can seem like the Wild West while browsing the internet for rims, tonneau covers, floor mats, lift kits, running board lights and more power. It’s the mission of the Specialty Equipment Market Association to maintain some order in a world where any part you want can be shipped to your house within days.
A recent expansion beyond SEMA’s home base in Diamond Bar (east of Los Angeles, the hub of all things aftermarket) places the 501(c) nonprofit (3) in Metro Detroit, close to major automakers, their product development labs, and, just as important, their component suppliers.
It’s been a long journey to Detroit: the SEMA team began researching the idea in January 2019, and by year’s end the board approved the expansion of the new facility . The process was moving forward in early 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire plan on hold in March of that year. Shopping in Detroit for the right location would have to wait.
It was about a year later that SEMA President and CEO Mike Spagnola and his team found (and purchased) an ideal location in Plymouth Township, northwest of Detroit, in the middle of a growing group of automotive suppliers and technology startups.
Within a three-mile radius of the new location, Spagnola has identified 83 Tier 1 automotive suppliers or active SEMA members. Cast a wider net and the potential audience is huge.
It took 16 months to gut the building in Plymouth and turn it into SEMA Garage Detroit. Since this month, it is operational.
This 45,000 square foot research and validation facility will accommodate SEMA’s 7,000 member companies to test their aftermarket products and, on the powertrain side, navigate the bureaucratic maze of emissions certification so those products can be sold to car enthusiasts.
This work has been done for the past nine years at SEMA’s facilities at Diamond Bar, but there is a backlog of at least three months of emissions certification projects there, which is exactly why this new facility in the Detroit metro has become essential. It’s three times the size of the Diamond Bar lab and boasts SEMA’s first four-wheel drive dynamometer, capable of 2500 hp. (Diamond Bar has a 2WD dyno.)
The California Air Resources Board recognizes the Diamond Bar emissions lab, and in February SEMA will submit final documents to CARB for approval of the new Detroit operation. Once approved, aftermarket companies interested in introducing new superchargers, intake manifolds, or exhaust systems can have these products tested and validated for sale in California and all other states.
Since opening in 2014, the Diamond Bar Lab has helped manufacturers secure more than 600 executive orders from CARB, more than any other testing facility. Without an executive order (“EO” as they are called in SEMA parlance), a product cannot be sold. It’s like a golden ticket, and extremely difficult to obtain.
“If every T was not crossed out, every dotted line, the applications were rejected,” Spagnola said. Automatic week. For many years, aftermarket companies couldn’t find labs to do the certification work, otherwise the process would be prohibitively expensive.
But you don’t want to bypass the legislative process and start selling products that haven’t been certified: “The fines for not doing this work are $37,000 per piece sold,” says Spagnola. “And so our manufacturers were being sued by the EPA and CARB and with significant fines. So they were really, really in bad shape with this process.
The CARB certification process used to take two years, but SEMA has cut it to three to six months. A CARB-certified product can be sold in all 50 states. But for some products, federal certification will suffice, and the new SEMA Garage Detroit is located 20 minutes from the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, where engines can be tested for compliance while in use. and where fuels and fuel additives and exhaust compounds can be analyzed.
It also helps that AVL, the world’s largest independent powertrain simulation and testing company, is located a mile from the new Plymouth Township Laboratory and provides it with new equipment.
Beyond certification work, the SEMA Garage Detroit will provide member companies with access to scanning services, a training center, 3D printers and other state-of-the-art tools and equipment. Members can use the hub for product reveals, photography, and producing demo/installation videos.
The new facility will also host exclusive “OEM Measurement Sessions” where automaker engineers will be available to talk about the quality, dimensions and specifications of new vehicles coming soon, 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 goes on sale in 2021, SEMA at Diamond Bar got a Bronco from Ford so aftermarket businesses can have convenient access to computer-aided digital data for suspension, for example.
“We could give that suspension CAD data to the manufacturers. They could do their CAD modifications, based on 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 prototype test drive would follow.
Before SEMA offered this service, aftermarket manufacturers used calipers and did a lot of time-consuming manual work on their products before even dealing with the manufacturing side. “You actually had to build a prototype,” without a 3D printer, “and then try to see if it would work,” 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 CAD data for a product to a member company in Japan that built fender flares and body kits. “We scanned the vehicle in California and sent those files electronically to the builder,” Spagnola says. “In Japan, this manufacturer built the parts, sent them back to us and they fit perfectly. We can create CAD data to within 1/1000 of an inch, which is basically (the thickness of one) hair on your head. »
Part of the new SEMA Garage will be devoted 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 – they are key enablers of ADAS technologies.
The goal is to help SEMA members troubleshoot software/hardware obstacles, while working on dynamic testing. Suspension kits that raise a truck or lower a vehicle have an (often negative) impact on the operation of all of these sensors. There are no industry standards to guide these component manufacturers, but an even bigger challenge is recalibrating ADAS systems after a crash.
“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 this 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 restoration market, convinced that some classic car owners will want to convert their vintage Camaros to battery-electric power – a notion of heresy for many.
“We see this as a huge and growing market for us, and we are currently working with engine manufacturers, battery manufacturers, harness manufacturers – all the electrical components needed to convert vehicles from gas to electric “says Spagnola.
Even before the Detroit Metro facility opened, the Diamond Bar Lab helped SEMA members bring literally thousands of components to the aftermarket. With the additional installation, the stream of new add-ons for your car should grow exponentially.
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