2006 SEMA: The Aftermarket Strikes Back


2006 SEMA Show by TCC Team (10/30/2006)
All our coverage from the Las Vegas aftermarket extravaganza.



by Rex Roy


2006 SEMA Show


Gear heads know about it. Industry insiders know about it. Over 100,000 people attend the annual Las Vegas conference known as SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association convention. But what is this four-day event?


SEMA is the trade group representing the aftermarket, a $34 billion segment of the US economy. The aftermarket is a broad definition that includes everything from fuzzy dice and rubber floor mats to tires and wheels, to replacement body panels, windshield wipers, and oil pumps.


Since only a few of our valued readers are dying to know what's new in shop solvents or suspension bushings, our multi-part SEMA 2006 coverage will focus on all that's fun and cool. Let's start by looking at the show from a distance. What strikes you immediately is the immense size of this gathering. Looked at from the platform of the new Las Vegas monorail, it's clear that the show begins in what would normally be the Las Vegas Convention Center's parking lot.


2006 SEMA ShowHundreds of the event's 2,000 display vehicles share space with displays out front. Toyota even erected an off-road driving track where dune buggies and stock Toyota FJs could show their off-roading capabilities. In any other part of the country, just what is in front of the LVCC would constitute a worthwhile event.


The theme of this year's show was American Muscle, and was strongly supported by General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler. Each company displayed vehicles from their own collections that played to the theme, with Ford and Chrysler truly showing their best wares. Important Ford Mustangs and Dodge Challengers were figuratively everywhere, with perfectly restored stock models sharing space with vintage racers, modified versions of current production models (Mustangs), and future models (Challengers). This is not to say that imports weren't represented. They were, as they constitute a significant portion of the show thanks to the popularity and profitability of the Tuner Market (think "The Fast and The Furious").



2006 SEMA Show

To house more than 2,000 exhibitors, SEMA spans three convention halls. The combined square footage exceeds 1,000,000. If you were to walk each aisle of each hall, your pedometer would read approximately five miles. The halls are loosely organized to match the natural segmentation that makes up the aftermarket. Groupings include audio/visual electronics, tires and wheels, off-road accessories, restyling accessories, hot rods, high-performance, etc.



2006 SEMA Show

It is essential to browse the entire show, because if you were beamed into only one floor of one hall, you might think that the aftermarket was only 26-inch wheels and tires with a rubber-band-thick 25-series aspect ratio. It is true that tires and wheels represent a significant segment of the aftermarket, and once outside the South Hall that holds most of these exhibitors, the true scope of SEMA reveals itself.


2006 SEMA ShowSeemingly scattered in and amongst these categories are manufacturer displays from General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Subaru, Honda, Toyota , Kia, and Hyundai. Manufacturers use SEMA to make announcements about their aftermarket programs, and increasingly, to introduce new models.


This year, Honda and Subaru introduced new performance-oriented vehicles, including the four-door Civic Si and the Forester. While not introducing any new models, General Motors used the event to push their already-introduced 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Ford and Chrysler stuck to citing new high-performance offerings such as new crate engines (the cam-in-block Boss 302, and the 392-cid Hemi) and revealing projects with everybody's favorite customizer, Chip Foose. (Apparently, Chip didn't mention to either corporate entity that he had projects going with their cross-town rival.)



2006 SEMA Show

As interesting as these major announcements are, what is most intriguing about SEMA is the small stuff. Here, you'll products from independents that may amount to nothing, or may be the start of an entire new trend. In small booths one can source anything from composite pushrods to portable navigation systems to LED-replacements for conventional brake lights to custom-blended exotic car waxes.


2006 SEMA ShowAnd then there are the girls. Beautiful women have always been a part of the automotive world, even more so in the aftermarket. Think Linda Vaughn (Miss Hurst Shifter), or the race queens at NASCAR events of decades past, or (again) "The Fast and The Furious." Even after a half-hearted effort by SEMA to repress the use of girls as booth bait, the large number professional models helped lower the average age of the show participants significantly.


So this is your introduction to SEMA—other articles will take you through major announcements and product news. Stay tuned.



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