Specialty Equipment Market Association President and CEO Chris Kersting will wrap up his more than 30-year tenure with the association on Jan. 31 and hand off the helm to interim co-CEOs Bill Miller and Mike Spagnola.
Kersting joined SEMA in 1996 to lead the organization’s Washington, D.C. office as vice president of legislative and technical affairs. He began as CEO in 2002.
In a press release announcing his retirement, Kersting called his career with SEMA “three decades of exciting and fulfilling work.”
“Together with our talented SEMA team, we’ve built a truly innovative portfolio of services and benefits – and certainly one of the greatest trade shows in the world,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better career.”
Kersting told RDN the SEMA Show is “about helping the industry find new opportunities and grow their businesses and careers.”
Kersting and his leadership team worked with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) to further develop the collision repair and refinish segment of the annual SEMA Show, leading to the first launch of the Repairer Driven Education series at the 2010 SEMA Show. The first iteration spanned two days of the Show, offering relevant topics targeted specifically for modern-day collision repair professionals.
The program matured over the years into a five-day series of educational opportunities including the first OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit in the 2014 Show, the IDEAS Collide Showcase at the 2018 event, and in 2020 saw the introduction of an online element, which was retained by SCRS in 2021, and is available at rde.scrs.com. The evolving segments and collaboration between SCRS and SEMA provide dedicated educational opportunities to the collision repair audience during the SEMA Show each year.
“Bringing the collision repair industry into the Show made it possible for exhibitors and attendees to see and discover new cross-over business opportunities,” Kersting said. “That synergy has worked out well for everyone.”
When asked what tips he has for his successors, Kersting said to understand what SEMA members need, it’s important to listen to the industry and pay attention to the trends that affect businesses.
“Our industry is one of the most innovative in the world,” he said. “SEMA has been useful to our customers by focusing on services and tools to help fuel that innovative capability.”
Miller, SEMA’s current senior vice president of operations, said the association is looking forward to working with SCRS in the future and called the collision repair industry a “natural fit” and “important segment” of the SEMA Show. Regarding the future of the Show, “The focus will continue to be on providing the industry with the best opportunities to connect and discover new products, see new trends, and strengthen existing relationships while building new ones,” Miller said.
Miller gave Kersting credit for guiding the SEMA Show to what it is now – “a mecca for automotive culture.”
“Together with the efforts of the industry and media, the Show is now a platform for collecting and distributing incredible automotive content, and that helps drive industry growth,” Miller said. “During his tenure, Chris also led development of a truly innovative portfolio of association programs and services. Offerings like the SEMA Garage & Emissions Lab, the SEMA Data Coop, SEMA Ignited and bringing PRI into the association.”
SEMA Board Chairman James Lawrence commended Kersting for guiding SEMA through “tremendously successful stretches” as well as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2008 recession.
“On behalf of the SEMA Board, and millions of automotive enthusiasts everywhere, we wish Chris the best of luck in the next stage of his life,” Lawrence said, in a SEMA press release.
Kersting will hold an advisory role with SEMA beginning Feb. 1 through July. The search for a permanent CEO is underway and SEMA plans to announce Kersting’s successor in the near future, Miller said.
Featured image: Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) President and CEO Chris Kersting. (Photo provided by SEMA)