My name is James Lawrence, and I’m running for SEMA Chairman because I believe it’s time for change. I believe in the magic of the automobile, and I’ve been blessed with an amazing career, professionally and as a racer, for over 20 years. I want to take some time to introduce myself so that you get a better idea of who I am, what I stand for, and how I can help lead SEMA.
Many people have helped me become the person that I am today, and I now have the opportunity to go beyond my job and my company, to make a commitment to a more significant cause, to preserve our dream for a bright and vibrant future for automotive performance and motorsports. My hope is that after you read this, you’ll be proud to be a part of our team to help protect the future of the automotive aftermarket.
Currently, I’m the CEO of Power Automedia, an automotive digital media company that was founded in 2006. I am serving a three-year term on the SEMA Board of Directors and am the acting Chairman of the PRI Task Force, charged with developing a new roadmap for PRI as a leader in the motorsport community. Previously, I co-founded (with former SEMA Board of Director Steve Wolcott) ProMedia—an automotive event production and media company. I have also been published in a variety of automotive industry publications and have been honored with SEMA’s prestigious “Media Person of the Year” award.
Since I first started working on cars as a teenager, I have devoted my life to the automotive industry. I’m an avid and active car enthusiast, and as a racer, won NMCA championships in 2016 and 2018. I have an advanced ET license from NHRA, and also have three years of circle track racing experience.
In our lives, we each have the opportunity to do things that make the world a better place. The opportunity to lead SEMA into the future is an area where I can offer a unique contribution to our community. I am committed and serious about the prospect of the Chairman role, including dedicating the time and energy needed to be successful.
Why Run for Chairman? What Needs to be Changed?
I believe that the automotive performance industry and SEMA member companies are at a pivotal moment. Without change, our industry is at risk. It’s not a secret that autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing services, and electrification are going to change our industry as we know it. But add those things together with the lack of youth interest, the graying of the motorsport fan base, and EPA / government regulations – and you have a risk triangle that can threaten our lifestyle and our hobby. Our industry has also – as a whole – never been at the forefront of technology.
Is everything broken? Absolutely not. The SEMA Board, SEMA leadership, and staff have a solid understanding of these issues and collectively understand their impact much better today than we did 5 years ago. The automotive aftermarket has achieved several years of impressive growth, over which the majority of SEMA-member companies have enjoyed strong sales. A positive side effect of the aging of the automotive enthusiast is that the core of the customer base finds itself with more disposable income and in a better economic situation. But this isn’t enough. We can’t simply bank on older enthusiasts’ wallets for our future, and blindly trust that everything will work itself out.
My dad once told me, saying ‘everything is going to be okay’ is not going to make everything okay. You have to actually DO something about it. We should refuse to sit by as regulations, government mandates, and a lack of youth interest slowly kill the automotive aftermarket. I hope you feel like I do, because we can make a difference.
I believe an effective leader starts by laying out a clear agenda for the entire organization. Each member, from senior leadership to an entry-level staffer, must understand “why” we are doing what we’re doing. Getting down to business and helping lead the SEMA Board of Directors to develop both long and short term plans, strategies, and actionable items to address the challenges ahead, instead of talking about them, is my promise to you.
In my career, I have had leadership roles in marketing strategies and strategic business development programs for everything from Fortune 500 companies, major OEMs, to mom-and-pop manufacturers. I have been highly involved in technology and innovation in the automotive industry, accelerating the adoption of digital media. From a technical and product standpoint, I have a deep understanding of engines, powertrain, EFI, tuning, control systems and suspension. I have consulted with many leading manufacturers on product development projects. I believe that the combination of my skills and experience make me the ideal candidate for the Chairman of SEMA position.
1) Youth Engagement: Recent efforts are encouraging. That being said, I believe we must prioritize, invest, and grow our youth engagement initiatives substantially. We must tap not just SEMA’s resources, but that of the entire industry, and our SEMA members and PRI community must be called to action.
2) Motorsports: As the owner of the Performance Racing Industry trade show, SEMA has a tremendous opportunity in motorsports to organize, harness and grow this community. With the risks facing the street performance market, the growth of the global motorsports market is more important than ever.
3) Regulations/Emissions: We need to consider a more active approach in the future: (1) Working with government affairs and agencies to help them understand how to intelligently and fairly regulate and enforce existing laws; (2) more aggressively informing and assisting SEMA member companies with emissions and street performance-compliance; (3) continuing to smooth the path for getting parts approved.
4) Harnessing the Power of the SEMA/PRI Membership/Community: We have a community with hundreds of thousands of members, builders, racers, and fans, that love cars and enjoy modifying them. We must find a way to cohesively motivate this community to make a difference by voting, communicating to our political representatives, growing motorsports and increasing young engagement activity. It takes a village, and we have one, but we must unify our community and get them on the field.
5) Trade Shows: At our core, SEMA operates two very well-run trade shows: the SEMA Show and PRI Trade Show. I’d like us to continue to invest in our number-one asset and consider growing and expanding SEMA’s automotive-related trade and consumers shows.
Let’s Do This Together
By working together, collectively identifying common goals, and by intelligently investing our capital and resources, SEMA and its member companies can work together with the SEMA Board of Directors to engage youth and preserving a promising future. I’m counting on it, because I am planning on sharing the love of the automobile with my family for a very long time.
Thank you for considering me for SEMA Chair. I respectfully and humbly ask for your support to lead SEMA with energy and passion.