Live From Vegas: 2005 SEMA Show (11/2/2005)
The aftermarket meets the OEMs in Vegas.
Hyundai Hopes for Tuner Magic with Three-Door Accent
Like Kia, its sister division, Hyundai is pushing hard to connect with the tuner and hip-hop crowd, said brand development manager Justin Osborne, in order to “build the buzz.” But it used its SEMA news conference to reveal the 2007 Accent three-door. “Right out of the box, this will be an excellent vehicle for customizing,” said Osborne, noting there will be an array of aftermarket parts available at Hyundai showrooms. The ’07 model features a 110-horsepower 1.6-liter four that will also appeal to the growing market for fuel-efficient vehicles. On the safety side, the three-door will come with six standard airbags, as well as four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. “This is a return to Hyundai’s roots,” declared Osborne, though he declined to set a specific price tag on the new model. But another company official hinted the three-door will likely be positioned as a price leader, starting a bit under the $11,500 base for the four-door Accent. Look for a spring 2006 debut.
Honda Is SEMA’s First Import Manufacturer of the Year
In a telling move, Honda became the first import to be named SEMA’s “vehicle manufacturer of the show,” an honor traditionally rotated among Detroit
’s Big Three. It shouldn’t be surprising, though, according to John Mendel, Honda’s senior vice president of automotive operations. After all, “the Civic…was really where tuning began.” The automaker showed off what Mendel dubbed the “ultimate” version of its new eighth-generation Civic, dubbed the Sport Concept Civic Si. The show car featured an anniversary white pearl paint job, carbon fiber trim and oversized Brembo brakes. “While it’s not ready for production, it gives you an idea of our vision of tuning going forward,” declared Mendel. While the Civic has been among the most popular models with street racers, the last generation generated plenty of controversy when it switched suspension designs. This time, Honda decided not to make that mistake, “so we talked to them early” stressed Mendel, and used that feedback to influence the latest model’s development. A variety of “small but very important” elements in the design were aimed at the tuner crowd, he added. For one thing, Honda made sure that the engine and exhaust sounds underscored a sense of performance tuning.
Mitsubishi Hones the Art of Ralli
Mitsubishi will finally bring its Ralliart performance products to the U.S.market, the Japanese automaker announced at SEMA. “It allows us to apply the lessons we’ve learned in racing to the street,” said Wayne Killen, vice president of marketing. A full line of aftermarket accessories should be available at dealers by spring 2006, he noted. Meanwhile, Killen revealed that a production version of the Gallant Ralliart Concept vehicle – which made the auto show rounds this year – will be put into production. A final version will be shown at a “spring 2006 auto show,” he hinted.
Could the Gallant Ralliart be a sign of things to come? There’s a strong possibility, based on Mitsubishi’s SEMA newser, where it rolled out two more concepts wearing the performance brand’s badge. The Ralliart Eclipse featured extensive use of carbon fiber body panels as part of the push to shave weight off the standard Eclipse model. Performance was also enhanced by boosting engine output to 400 hp. That was channeled through a new six-speed, short-throw gearshift to an all-wheel-drive powertrain. The Ralliart Eclipse featured 20x9 carbon fiber wheels, with plenty of stopping power, thanks to front eight-piston Brembos and four-piston rears. The show car was painted in hot mica red. Inside, the concept featured Recaro seats with four-point harnesses, and a Rockford Fosgate audio designed to keep you awake on a long drive.