LAS VEGAS (Nov. 15, 2002) — Spoilers, aero kits, custom wheels and tires and high-performance cars weren't invented by auto makers. All of them were created in that wild and wacky world of the automotive aftermarket.
Those folks had their annual love-in recently. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) held its week-long convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center in conjunction with the International Tire Expo.
The newly expanded center is huge. To do the show justice, you needed a golf cart.
The center was filled with 1,500 exhibitors that just might hold the next hot idea for a production vehicle or a dealer-installed aftermarket product.
The show is proof that America's love affair with the automobile is alive and well. Not only that, SEMA now includes just about every accessory imaginable that can be installed by the owner or accessory shop. If SEMA is any indication, there is a real polarization of interests in the aftermarket.
Each year, you see more and more performance and custom accessories for small-displacement Asian imports. That market seems to be growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S.
At the other end of the spectrum are pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles. The number of exhibitors that have developed products for those vehicles is growing fast.
What's missing is any large interest in the traditional American car. It is falling by the wayside. You'll find products for Mustangs and Camaros, but not much else.
But it really doesn't matter.
What the auto industry will get most out of SEMA are ideas.
Those ideas might lead to accessories that make new vehicles more salable now. Or they could lead to trends that will show up on production vehicles five years from now.
The SEMA show is where you see clever ideas.
I've said it before and it's still true: If you're in the auto making business, it's worth part of your week to take a quick trip to Vegas. You'll probably pick up some ideas that you'll be able to use for the next year.
Mr. Crain is publisher and editorial director of Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.