I n racing’s early years, motorsports equipment was often pushed to its performance limits. Catastrophic parts failures would cause damage and sometimes cause injury to participants. In response, a group of racing product manufacturers formed an association in 1963 known as the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, or SEMA. The original organizers deemed the central purpose of the association to be the development of product specifications for use by the suppliers of equipment used in racing. The product performance specs would be among the chief functions of SEMA, with the intent to raise the bar for performance quality and reliability of the racing products, which would hopefully translate to safety on the track.
In those early days, SEMA’s pioneers struggled with the development and implementation of various product specifications. Many “unknowns” faced the innovative entrepreneurs in areas of design criteria, testing and promulgation of specifications. But their dedication to the industry and racing won out and it wasn’t long before the specifications were accepted and formed a part of sanctioning body rule books.
Eventually, if certain products on a vehicle didn’t “meet SEMA specs,” the owner could be denied participating in a motorsports event. A specs program for the performance products industry was born and has continued for many years as a result of the determination of the founders of SEMA.
Approximately a decade after its inception, SEMA turned its attention and resources to the increasingly important matters of legislation and governmental regulation, marketing projects, the SEMA Show and various other activities common to a professional trade association serving the interests of an ever-changing, progressive industry. The specs program then became the responsibility of the SEMA Service Bureau, an organization whose operations were exclusively in the field of product specifications and testing programs.
In time, the need for yet a more sophisticated specifications program became apparent. In 1978 a new organization, the SEMA Foundation, Inc., or SFI, was formed to replace the Service Bureau, chartered to organize and manage an expanded industry specs program. That name has been shortened to SFI Foundation, Inc.
Although a proud beginning, SFI now operates as a foundation completely independent from SEMA, which is now called the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association. SFI no longer stands for SEMA Foundation, Inc. since they are no longer affiliated.
Looking back in history, it is now obvious to most of us why performance specifications were necessary for racing parts and safety equipment. Failures were all too common, and minimum standards were needed to keep people from getting hurt or property getting damaged. But as technology in general has improved with leaps and bounds, why is an organization like SFI still needed? The answer to that question is quality assurance. It can be argued that product failures in the field have been greatly reduced over the decades as a result of SFI’s contributions to the motorsports industry.