2005 SEMA Show, Part II (11/2/2005)
Subaru spec.B, Honda's hardcore Civic, Hyundai's new Accent hatch.
SEMA Making Warranty Pledge
It’s the era of customization, and the numbers show that American motorists are spending record amounts to personalize their vehicles. Retail spending on products sold by members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association hit $31 billion last year, a 35-percent increase in five years, noted SEMA Director Chris Kersting. And despite a softening economy, most observers expect the trend to continue. An estimated 120,000 people will walk through the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas
this week, a far cry from the 3000 who attended the first aftermarket event, held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
in 1967. This year’s show will feature 20 percent more products than in 2004. They fall into four broad ranges: tires and wheels, performance parts, body and appearance accessories, and the increasingly popular in-car electronics. Systems like video players, satellite receivers, and navigation devices underscore Kersting’s comment that the SEMA show “is a significant barometer of consumer trends.”
SEMA hasn’t ignored a trend towards more reliable products, whose manufacturers stand behind what they build. The trade group is launching a multi-city pilot program, dubbed ProPledge designed to instill confidence in aftermarket parts buyer, said Kersting. Manufacturers and installers who choose to participate will be required to provide a standardized warranty — for three years and 36,000 miles — and ensure that their parts and work won’t damage other vehicle components. The ProPledge launches early next year and SEMA hopes eventually to extend it nationwide.
Kia’s Hunt: Used Buyers Can Get New Kias
It may be an aftermarket event, but automakers made a lot of news at this year’s SEMA show, several by introducing their new bosses. That included the Korean carmaker Kia, where Len Hunt has moved in as top Western executive. Until recently, the British-born executive was running Volkswagen’s U.S.
subsidiary. In a telling choice of words, Hunt echoed SEMA chief Kersting, describing aftermarket week as a “barometer” — but in this case, measuring how Kia is progressing. A few years ago, few suppliers made aftermarket parts for Kia products, which had no real traction with the U.S.
tuner crowd. That’s changing significantly, and in Las Vegas
, the importer showed a handful of custom-tuned products, including this SUV, with a cargo compartment full of high-end audio-video gear. Of six vehicles on display, two subcompact Rios showed tuners doubling the factory output to more than 200 horsepower. “This helps us in defining the brand,” Hunt told TheCarConnection.com. “A lot of (young) people buy used cars” to tune them up, he said, “but here they can buy new cars for about the same price.”
VW Sets New Hallmark
Volkswagen, meanwhile, made news in a variety of different ways during the opening session of Aftermarket Week. The German automaker put in its first appearance at SEMA, for one thing. That’s belated, considering VWs have always been popular platforms for customizers, dating back to the days when Beetles were given Rolls-Royce grilles or transformed into dune buggies. Company officials noted that they are rapidly expanding the number of parts available from the factory. Last year saw record sales of $690 million, said aftermarket manager Charlie Lewis, “and the stage is set for another record-breaking year.”