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Liz Couch is an International Economist with the Office of Transportation and Machinery’s Automotive Team
The U.S. automotive specialty parts industry is known for being innovative and creative, and the industry association that supports these companies is no different. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) recently came up with a new, resourceful way to help its members to increase their exports. SEMA, with the help of a partnership with the International Trade Administration (ITA), has purchased and imported a Toyota HiLux truck as part of a new SEMA program to offer members access to vehicles that are popular for customizing and sold worldwide, but are not sold in the United States.
The program will give SEMA’s members the opportunity to take measurements needed to develop, manufacture and export customized aftermarket products to over 100 countries where the HiLux is sold. What makes this program so valuable is that the majority of SEMA members are small and medium-sized companies, and they would not typically have access to vehicles only sold overseas. SEMA has already held three group measuring sessions and the vehicle will be transported over the next year to individual company sites for those requiring more time.
I had the opportunity to recently attend a two-day measuring session in California where 36 companies participated. It was great to witness the development process first-hand and to hear manufacturers’ enthusiasm for this program.
Last year, SEMA received ITA’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) award, which provides non-profit industry groups with financial and technical assistance over a 3-year period to go towards projects to help U.S. companies begin or expand their exports.
Award recipients contribute a minimum of two-thirds of their project’s cost, and agree to sustain the project afterwards. SEMA’s MDCP award enabled the Association to embark on its measuring program.
In addition, SEMA, in partnership with ITA, has educated its members about exporting to China and the Middle East, and organized Business Development Conferences to both regions. SEMA’s projects have had the support and assistance along the way from my office, both our domestic and overseas Commercial Service offices, and our country desk specialists.
This has truly been a public-private partnership working towards increasing exports for small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers and supporting the National Export Initiative (NEI). The potential for U.S. specialty parts manufacturers to expand their reach and share their ingenuity and passion for customized vehicles with the world is truly exciting!