What do you think of when you thing automotive accessories? Fuzzy dice? Underbody LED lights? Aerodynamic windshield wipers? If so, then you're missing the best parts about SEMA, one of the greatest automotive events on the planet. For those not familiar with SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), it's simply the largest aftermarket tradeshow in the world. Unfortunately, you're not invited to this annual Fall gathering. Like most trade shows and conventions, you've got to be part of the "business community" to attend. Not to worry. AutomobileMag.com was there in your stead.
Some SEMA facts; in 2008, over 2000 manufacturers, vehicle modifiers, and parts makers plied their products to an estimated crowd of 80,000 visitors walk miles of aisles that crisscross the entire Las Vegas Convention Center (nearly 2 million square feet). The 2008 show (which ended November 7) was jam packed with customized factory vehicles, tuner cars, high-performance parts, vehicle infotainment gear, clever general accessories, and more than a few surprises.
If you know how to consume the show's aggregate impressions, you can discern the pulse of the industry. It may be a bit slower, but it's definitely not faltering.
From Detroit, with Love
Consider the significant iron Detroit manufacturers have and will soon introduce; the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, 2009 Ford F-150, 2009 Ford Flex, 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, and the still new Dodge Challenger. Initial predictions were that Detroit would rule the show. While the Motor City's presence was felt, it did not dominate as expected.
General Motors paid big bucks to get their 2010 Camaro to be "The Official Car of SEMA 2008." Somebody may take heat for that media buy given today's economic status because the effort fell flat. GM's presence at the show was not overwhelming. It should have been. Their corporate exhibit was lightly populated with product, and the expanses of empty carpet signaled to all just how tough things are back in Detroit. Among the too few vehicles per square foot, there were several factory-customized Camaros, three H3s, a G8 ST, and a handsome Solstice GXP Coupe. In past years, GM's title status would have meant a display overflowing with product plus dozens upon dozens of additional "partner vehicles" in other exhibitors' booths. Not in 2008.
Chrysler did a better job than GM at SEMA 2008. Their pony car made it into the hands of dozens of tuners and most of the cars looked well done. Frankly, it's hard to screw up that car. There were fewer Ram 1500s around, but Mopar fans were not disappointed.