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As the automotive industry goes through one of its most significant transformations in history, big plans are afoot to grow the SEMA show into a two-week festival of everything automotive.

Traditionally, SEMA has been an industry trade show for vendors, resellers, and the aftermarket known for booths full of turbochargers, exhaust systems, and wild, over-the-top builds, however, SEMA president and CEO Mike Spagnola has a vision to create an automotive South by Southwest-like event.

SEMA typically spans three convention centre halls in Las Vegas, attracting more than 150,000 registered and credentialed attendees. This year marks the first shift for the show with the addition of SEMA Fest.

This year provided us with the first glimpse of Spagnola’s future vision with the launch of SEMA Fest.

For the first time in the event’s history, SEMA Fest opened the show to the general public. A $179 SEMA Fest ticket allowed punters to attend the show and provided access to all three million feet of indoor space plus the outdoor attractions.

The ticket will also provide access to drifting competitions, motorcycle jumping, micro circus, and more than 20 musical acts spanning Friday and Saturday. Headliners include Incubus and Imagine Dragons, among others.

But according to Spagnola, SEMA Fest is just the warmup act. His vision includes a two-week festival that kicks off with the traditional SEMA industry trade show and ends with the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix.

In between, automotive professionals and enthusiasts from across the globe would have the opportunity to enjoy various events, including SEMA Fest, a full Detroit auto show-like manufacturer show including vehicle debuts and ride-and-drives, car club gatherings and much more.

Spagnola wants to make Las Vegas a big car party city during this time. "Just fill up Las Vegas and celebrate cars and everything about them," he said. He's already talked to the city, race organisers, hotels, and car makers. Most are interested, but they have yet to say yes for sure.

Spagnola mentioned that the Wynn Hotel is already part of the car world and hosts their own car show. The hotel likes this idea and wants to join its show with this big event.

"We recognise we can't monopolise the whole town. It's not about SEMA running everything," Spagnola said. However, the CEO notes that Las Vegas has the real estate and infrastructure for an expanded event.

“With SEMA and F1 already in the city and the timely nature of the two, it could all fall into place,” he added.

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