SEMA 2020 Is Off But The Baja 1000's Still Happening

One of Ivan Stewart’s Baja cars at SEMA 2018
One of Ivan Stewart’s Baja cars at SEMA 2018
Photo: Bradley Brownell

November is usually a huge month for the off-road scene, between the SEMA Show bringing in hordes to Las Vegas to gawk at a vast upgrade parts and the Baja 1000 putting some of those parts to the test. Both organizations put out press releases today: SEMA is off, but Baja is go.

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The SEMA Show (named for the Speciality Equipment Market Association that puts it on) is about much more than just off-road products of course, though interest in off-roady stuff has been spiking as the idea of overlanding continues to spill into mainstream culture. Also because your contractor Greg is on his second Raptor now, and it is imperative that he get new bumpers, lights, wheels, tires, and shocks for it.

SEMA is considered a major event on the automotive calendar, and many of the industry’s major players come together to show off their wares and make connections at the show every year. I guess you could go on a public day if you’re a Las Vegas fan looking to check out a sea of souped-up cars!

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My friend and former SEMA chair Rory Connell posted notes about the trade show being canceled and I found official releases from the organization confirming pretty quickly that the largely indoor show won’t go down:

Connell told me on the phone that while industry reps were eager to get things moving again, the state of Nevada and hosting venue couldn’t commit to being able to hold the gigantic gathering come November.

“The four-day event consistently attracts more than 161,000 individuals,” reports a SEMA fact sheet from last year. So yeah, I can see why something like that would have to be put on hold while people are panicking about a pandemic sweeping through the population.

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SEMA’s official website has a note about this update, and suggests there might be some kind of online alternative to the show to look out for in a few months though but didn’t have specifics:

“Recent SEMA Show survey results indicated interest in a possible virtual tradeshow with related live elements. SEMA will be working with industry members to determine interest levels on specific alternatives.”

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As it stands, the next SEMA show is slated for November 2 to 5, 2021. By then Greg will have a Bronco, and will be amped, let me tell you.

As for Baja, race organization SCORE (stands for Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts) announced that it inked an agreement with Mexico and the city of Ensenada to host the Baja 1000 for November 17 to 22. It will be about a 1,000-mile loop, not a peninsula run to Cabo San Lucas.

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SCORE’s press release had some quotes from Ensenada’s Mayor Armando Ayala:

“The SCORE Baja 1000 will be part of the economic reactivation of Ensenada and will take place under the strict guidelines of the Baja California State Secretary of Health.”

“We are grateful for the support of Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla who played a very key role in order for the race to take place in Ensenada along with the Ensenada business community and the tremendous work by SCORE in putting together the details and health protocol plan for the event.”

“The SCORE Baja 1000 has a rich history in Ensenada and this year especially will benefit the economy of our city which has suffered so much because of COVID-19. This will be the first major event held here since the start of the pandemic when we have had to cancel such events as the Wine festival as well as the visits by cruise ships.”

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I have mixed feelings about this. SCORE’s events represent huge cash injections to a lot of small businesses on Mexico’s rural peninsula, but having hundreds of people crossing the border to play in the sand during a pandemic seems suboptimal. Mexico has felt industrial pressure to re-open, and it has done the country no favors in terms of fighting Covid. Hopefully, the state of the world will have improved somewhat in three months’ time.

At the very least, being out in open desert seems safer than being indoors in Vegas for a week.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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DISCUSSION

Well that’s just fuckin’ great!

SEMA was supposed to be the barometer for Las Vegas conventions. If SEMA was going to go ahead as planned, there was a good chance that many people, including myself, would be called back from layoffs to our old jobs. But if SEMA didn’t happen, there wasn’t going to be a chance of that.

Now we not only have tens of thousands of workers who will remain unemployed for the autumn through Christmas and New Years, but now this also throws CES & NAB into serious jeopardy to prolong unemployment! Which also means that competition for any jobs is fierce right now. Plus we get the bonus of COVID19 running down the clocks on our seniority to be called back at all.

Then there’s all the vendors, and especially Ford with their new Bronco. No SEMA means no chance to show off aftermarket toys to help encourage sales.

SEMA just fucked over so many more people than they realize.