Get it all: 2002 SEMA Show Coverage (11/6/2002)
SEMA SETTING RECORDS
What if you threw a recession and nobody came? That seems to be what’s happening in the aftermarket industry, according to SEMA officials. Initial figures suggest that member sales continue to climb this year, on top of 2001’s strong, $26 billion in volume. “Some members expected a softening,” said SEMA Executive Director Chris Kersting. “It hasn’t happened yet.” Meanwhile, with the Las Vegas Convention Center’s big expansion this year, SEMA was able to fill 25 percent more exhibit space for this year’s gathering, with more than a quarter of the 1568 exhibitors in the show for the first time. With a record 91,000 attendees pre-registered and thousands more paying their entrance fees on site, SEMA’s 2002 event just might surpass the attendance of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, officials noted, to become the biggest public event held in Las Vegas.
MARKET FRAGMENTATION DRIVING BIG CHANGES
The more the competition, “the more a customer expects exactly the product he wants,” said Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche. And that, he and other industry executives said, is driving a rapid fragmentation of the U.S. new car market. In response, automakers are likely to flood the market with an array of specialty vehicles and low volume spin-offs of more mainstream products.
PASSENGER CARS STAGING A COMEBACK?
A growing share of the parts and accessories at this year’s SEMA show are targeted at the booming light truck market. But a surprisingly large number of sedans, coupes, wagons and sports cars were among the concepts on display. “We are convinced” of the need to shift the focus at Chrysler back to passenger cars, said CEO Dieter Zetsche. But not everyone sees a real revival. Why have sales of passenger cars, and sedans in particular, fallen so sharply in recent years? The answer is simple, according to Ford design chief J Mays. They’ve become as boring as milquetoast and don’t inspire people like the sedans “prevalent in the ‘50s and ‘60s.” To bring back the sedan, he added, new designs will have to “come back with a lot of strength…and a lot of desire.”
2002 Ford FR100 concept
While most of the show cars on display in Las Vegas are spin-offs of current production models, Ford took a look in the rearview mirror with its FR100 concept truck. It began life as a 1953 F-100 pickup, noted Dan Davis, head of the automaker’s Racing Technology team. Six inches were cut out of the bed, while the cab was stretched an equal amount. Under the hood, the FR100 featured the new 5.0-liter Cammer crate engine, a high-performance spin-off of Ford’s mainstay 4.6-liter modular V-8. The new powertrain puts out an estimate 425 horsepower, and will be offered in packages for use in a variety of racing configurations.
2002 Ford FR100 conceptEnlarge Photo
2002 Jaguar racing concept
That’s the idea being tested by the first-ever concept vehicle the British automaker has brought to SEMA, a high-performance version of the compact X-Type sedan. “There is a lot of interest in getting back on the track in North America,” revealed Jaguar spokesman Simon Sproule, most likely in the TransAm racing series. A decision could be made in the near future. And it would not be linked to any decision on the future of Jaguar’s struggling Formula One efforts, Sproule emphasized. Even if the automaker doesn’t return to U.S. racing, the new prototype could pump up interest in high-performance custom parts for Jaguar production vehicles.
2002 Jaguar racing conceptEnlarge Photo