Ford also came on strong. Because of SEMA's overall bent toward muscle, the not-so-new-anymore Mustangs remained prevalent. There were a few 2009 F-150s around, but plenty of Flexes. That vehicle's slab-sided design proved to be a fertile canvas for customizers.
Other Countries Heard From
It wasn't many years ago that there were no factory-sponsored booths from Asian manufacturers. At SEMA 2008, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai were out in force. Toyota showed a full range of vehicles including two customized Venza wagons. Nissan brought a hot-rodded Altima Hybrid. Subaru showed a couple of new Foresters, including one with 16-inches of running ground clearance.
But one import outshined both the Asians and the domestics without the benefit of any factory support; Smart. The company's ForTwo were figuratively everywhere. Customizing legend George Barris built a mini Batmobile from one, complete with scissor doors, fins and rocket launchers. Others were festooned with heavy-duty brush guards, fancy wheels, and gaudy paint wraps. The moral of this story is that the aftermarket runs like any capitalist conglomeration, and when it anticipates an opportunity, it pounces.
For the time being, green is big. And cool. And potentially profitable.
Accessories and Such
Regarding accessories, we spotted four major trends: LEDs are finally overtaking incandescent bulbs; Bluetooth interfaces for phones and other devices are going mainstream; GPS-based navigation and tracking products are showing exponential grown; and feature-laden mobile entertainment systems are showing significant costs decreases. All of this is good news, unless you have a fear of Big Brother tracking you through your new GPS unit.
According to SEMA, customizing, accessorizing, and servicing cars and trucks is a $38 billion business. Wheels and tires are a huge portion of this, as are the products that make up the Infotainment category - what used to be classified as "car audio. It remains among the largest of the accessory categories in terms of dollars.
If you're interested in some specific accessories your author found particularly interesting, check out the following:
- A DIN-chassis radio (that fit in older vehicles) by Parrot with Bluetooth and USB integration; www.parrot.com/uk/products/car-stereos/parrot-rk8200
- Hands-free Bluetooth devices that are increasing in importance due to state and local cell phone usage laws; www.mantiswireless.com
- Some freaking amazing tape; www.rescuetape.com
- A portable, wireless trailer-hitch cam with integrated infrared vision; www.swifthitch.com