By Paul Santana
“The SEMA show has always been the premier event where the
newest and most innovative automotive aftermarket products
and trends are seen first,”
- –Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO
- Once again, during the first week of November, the world’s largest gathering of automotive enthusiasts filled The Las Vegas Convention Center’s more than 2.5 million square feet of space, (both indoor and out) with over 1,500 vehicles showcasing the best products available to the automotive aftermarket. More than 2,500 companies, including 550 new to the event this year, along with 13 major automakers, 60,000 automotive parts buyers, and 3,000 media representatives were on hand. All in all, there were more than 130,000 attendees, all there for one reason – to see what’s new and exciting in the automotive aftermarket.
There was even an appearance of the famous Farmtruck, and it made the list of SEMA’s top 10 show trucks, but it wasn’t because it’s pretty. The 1970 Chevy C-10 pickup is featured on the Discovery Channel TV show “Street Outlaws,” based out of Oklahoma City. Known for its sleeper status, Farmtruck has achieved nationwide fame for its unique blend of performance and lack of flash, and best of all, it’s an Oklahoma original.
2015 brings many new models to the vehicle market, but perhaps none as anticipated and revolutionary as the all-new, all-aluminum-bodied F150 pickup from Ford. As I’ve written in previous articles, the all-aluminum body is a huge shift in the automotive manufacturing world, moving toward a lighter, more efficient vehicle. By replacing the traditional steel body panels with a new blend of virgin and recycled aluminum alloy, Ford has reduced the overall weight of their F150 by over 700 pounds. According to Ford, it takes about one-tenth the energy to recycle aluminum as it does to manufacture it, and aluminum is one of the most recycled materials on earth, with over 70 percent of all aluminum ever manufactured still in use today.
As the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the past 30-plus years, servicing the F150 aftermarket is huge business, and a large part of that business is in aftermarket performance and cosmetic accessories. It’s no surprise that the F150 was well represented at this year’s SEMA show, with dozens of companies utilizing the new F150 platform to showcase their products.
Along with the new F150, Ford Motor Company had a lot to be excited about this year with the newly designed 2015 Ford Mustang. It features an all-new 5.0L V8 powertrain, nicknamed the Coyote, an optional 2.3L eco-boost engine, and a new independent rear suspension. Winner of the 2014 SEMA Hottest Car Award, the 2015 Mustang is an excellent showcase for aftermarket parts, with dozens of customized examples spread throughout the show. From rims and interior accessories to exhaust and performance tuners, new 2015 Mustang buyers will have plenty of aftermarket choices right out of the gate.
GM brought several vehicles to this year’s show, including the SEMA Hottest Truck Award-winning Chevy Silverado, but it was another new vehicle from GM that seemed to be garnering the most attention on the show floor. The all-new 2015 Chevy Colorado is GM’s latest attempt at regaining some of the midsize truck market that’s been dominated by the virtually unchanged Toyota Tacoma for the past decade. After taking a short test drive in the Colorado at the show, it’s clear to me their focus was on making the Colorado bigger, stronger and more stylized than previous offerings, with a more comfortable cabin and multiple power options.
While only time will tell the overall winner of the Midsize Truck wars, the 2015 Colorado is hoping to regain some share, and the aftermarket seems fully on board with all varieties of accessories showcasing the Colorado’s diverse possibilities. At the very least, hopefully the Colorado will bring some much-needed competition to the segment, driving further change and innovation among its competitors.
Along with offerings by the large automakers, SEMA was founded on the premise of giving smaller companies an equal opportunity to showcase their products. This year’s New Products Showcase featured more than 2,000 different products, divided into 16 categories ranging from collision repair to wheels and tools.
One of the most interesting new products came from a small company called MOTOPED. Recently acquired by the Kansas City-based “conservation-minded propulsion technology” company APT MOTOVOX Group, MOTOPED offers a diverse line of motorbikes that can best be described as “a unique fusion of the best lightweight parts and tech from the pedal-powered mountain biking world, with the throttle-twisting thrills of motorcycle riding” (MOTOPED). Most models offer more than 200mpg performance, and the Cruzer model, featured at the show, holds its fuel in a beautiful 1.3-gallon brushed stainless steel tank. It features a stitched leather seat reminiscent of early Harleys, along with real wood fenders and matching tank trim pieces. The Cruzer rolls along on 24-inch spoke rims and features DNM adjustable front and rear suspension, while its 4130 Chromoly Single Tube frame offers lightweight strength and rigidity.
Other models include the Motocross-inspired “Pro” and the aptly named “Survival Bike,” which includes a 50-pound-rated gear rack mounted just behind the seat that’s perfect for all your apocalypse gear needs. Its two-gallon fuel capacity translates into more than a 500-mile range without the need for stopping, although I doubt your butt will last that long (it is, after all, a motorbike). Pricing starts at around $2,500 for most models, with speeds topping out at about 24mph. In most states it can be classified as a motorized bicycle, meaning it doesn’t require licensing, registering, or title work. Weighing in at around 120 pounds, MOTOPEDs offer a unique mix of traditional bikes and motorcycle riding, without the weight, expense, or hassle associated with more traditional riding.
Although SEMA is still a trade show, meaning only industry professionals and press are allowed to attend, this year SEMA decided to give the general public the opportunity to join in on the fun. On the last evening of the show, the celebration of everything automotive continued at the inaugural SEMA Ignited event. The now-famous SEMA cruise (when all the show cars drive out of the convention center at the end of the show) led to the LINQ entertainment district just off the strip, and featured many of the show vehicles previously on display at the Convention Center. The event gave consumers “a rare opportunity to collect and share images of hundreds of customized vehicles featuring the newest and most innovative products from the 2014 SEMA Show” (SEMA Ignited 2014). SEMA Ignited included food, music, celebrity appearances, exhibitor displays and, of course, the cars of SEMA. Adding to the excitement of the event, the hit automotive restoration show “Overhaulin’,” featuring famed auto designer Chip Foose, filmed an episode of their show during the SEMA event, and chose to unveil their restored 1957 Chevy to the public at the Ignited event.
After nearly four full days of walking the 2014 SEMA show, I can definitely say that the passion for automotive customizing is alive and strong. With representatives from over 130 countries, SEMA has solidified itself as the “World’s Premier Automotive Aftermarket Convention.” According to SEMA’s market research division, the automotive aftermarket is a $33 billion business, with nearly one in ten consumers deciding to purchase a particular vehicle after seeing a modified version of it. After all, most car enthusiasts want their vehicle to stand out and be different. What better way to stand out from the crowd than to customize that ride!