Make no mistake: America's love affair with the automobile is as active as ever. If you took a stroll through the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas this month, you realized that millions of people are interested in modifying their cars or trucks.
Hundreds of exhibitors seemed to have everything that car lovers would be interested in adding to their vehicles. But I found one trend that is going to be a challenge for Detroit.
In the coming years, plenty of accessories will be available to the growing number of owners of sport-utilities and other trucks.
It doesn't seem to matter what you own, someone has everything you might want to make your truck one of a kind. That's a direct reflection of the new-vehicle sales trend. Light trucks now represent more than 50 percent of sales.
So it seems logical that new-car dealers and the entire aftermarket would be offering all sorts of accessories for them. But the other half of the SEMA show was devoted to what are nicknamed rice rockets or pocket rockets.
They are primarily front-wheel-drive vehicles from Japan with souped-up engines. Those vehicles, with engines smaller than two liters, are putting out massive amounts of horsepower.
Owners are spending thousands of dollars, and hundreds of companies are supplying them with specialized parts and accessories.
Many of those companies at SEMA are Japanese and have followed their cars to the U.S. There is some growing awareness at General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler group that they haven't been represented in that market recently.
Ford, for example, now is offering an SVT Focus for the youth market that's interested in those high-performance pocket rockets. It's a trend that befuddles anyone over 30. We look at it, shake our heads and realize it's going on, but we have no idea what it's all about.
It seems to have started in Southern California and is spreading rapidly throughout the nation. What once was considered a phenomenon is becoming mainstream.
It will be interesting to see how the auto makers react to such a different market and a different customer. Honda, Acura and Mitsubishi have been on the bandwagon for some time. It's a trend you ignore at your peril.
It's tough to understand if you're over the hill like most of us-but we're the ones who have to understand it, after all.
Mr. Crain is chairman of Crain Communications Inc.