TMCP #574: SEMA President and CEO, Mike Spagnola – State of the Industry


Mike Spagnola – SEMA:

Mike Spagnola

This week I spoke to Mike Spagnola, President and CEO of SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association). It is always fun to meet for the first time, especially people who are helming something important to you. This was my first interaction of any kind with Mike, and my immediate takeaway from the discussion was that SEMA is in good hands (and a bright future) with his leadership!

Mike has been involved with automotive his whole life and at all ends of the spectrum. From racing off road trucks, to owning an automotive specialty parts business, and even working a wall street type job buying and selling car related businesses, Mike has done it all. He told me it started at a very young age when he knew he wanted to be involved with cars. He played with all the car and tool toys, and watched the racing and stunt type TV shows as a kid and just knew that is what he wanted to do. In high school he excelled in auto shop and a famous visitor showed up one day offering a scholarship to the person that did the best in class. Mike worked hard and won that money for college but when it came time to accept his prize he was tongue tied and could not speak. Later on he became friends with this person and had even talked to him often, that person was legendary racer and businessman, Mickey Thompson.

With Mike’s vast and diverse background he is a natural at running the biggest protection and advocation agency in the automotive aftermarket world. It is a given that the job is very hard though and takes dedication and perseverance. He said that the organization finds out about new threats to our hobby every single week and many are never heard of by the general public and would go undetected and undisputed without SEMA around to do the hard work. He also knows the struggles of running an automotive business, especially one that is fighting to survive amidst numerous attacks from the government so he helped set up and run the first SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar and the new SEMA Garage in Detroit.

Mike was key in building the SEMA emissions lab and emissions program in partnership with Cal Air Resources Board (CARB), which helps companies make emissions compliant parts and accessories. The SEMA Garages, located in Southern California and Detroit, are the only known facilities of their kind in the United States, offering services like 3D scanning, 3D printing, ADAS testing, vehicle measuring sessions, fully equipped work bays, emissions testing and certification. SEMA Garage Detroit recently received confirmation from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that the new location is properly equipped for automotive exhaust emissions testing.

Chassis Dyno at SEMA Garage Detroit


There are only fourteen Independent Vehicle Emissions Testing Labs in the United States, who are recognized by CARB to perform light-duty tailpipe emissions testing including the two SEMA Garages. SEMA works closely with automakers to offer measuring sessions on new vehicles so members can bring new products to market.

How does SEMA helps car people do what they love? SEMA has a history of working with lawmakers to create and push through legislation that supports consumer and industry choice. SEMA also pushes back against over reach by the government when it tries to dictate extreme mandates such as the EPA’s proposed emissions rules and California’s efforts to mandate all new vehicles must be ZEV by 2035. These proposals force EVs to become the only option for automakers to produce and consumers to purchase. SEMA believes the government should not pick winners and losers regarding automotive technologies and that the market should drive technology solutions.
SEMA and SEMA members recently testified in opposition to California’s waiver request for ACCII–this is the California rule that would ultimately ban the internal combustion engine in California and potentially the 17 states that follow California’s emission standards.§SEMA has lobbied for the “Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act,” a federal bill that protect Americans’ right to choose the technology that powers their motor vehicles by preventing EPA from granting California a waiver to allow its ZEV mandate to take effect. SEMA also supports California Senate Bill 301 that would level the playing field for incentives for people who want to convert their existing ICE vehicles to zero emissions systems.The bill would allow for up to a $4,000 rebate for those who convert to zero emissions technologies.

Thanks for the discussion, Mike!

-Rob Kibbe


This interview sponsored by our friends at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!



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