Big, bigger, biggest: Huge aftermarket numbers drive major automakers to the SEMA big
By BOB GRITZINGER/AutoWeek
Consider the following numbers: 26 billion, 7400, 1300 and 12. Don’t pain your brain trying to compute a connection: The numbers all relate to the Specialty Equipment Market Association aftermarket trade show, which began in 1967 in Los Angeles (back when it was the Speed Equipment show) and has been staged annually for the past 26 years in Las Vegas.
The first number relates to $26 billion in annual retail sales in the specialty automotive industry. There are 7400 booths occupied by exhibitors (there were 98 in 1967); and they’re displaying 1300 accessorized and customized vehicles (vs. five in 1967). Finally, the even dozen is the number of major automakers who now consider SEMA a key stop on the annual automotive show schedule, up from just three original-equipment manufacturers that participated five years ago.
At the Nov. 5-8 show, their ranks include SEMA show lead manufacturer Chrysler along with Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Panoz, Suzuki and Toyota. Most bring the usual customized versions of regular production cars, but some are also taking the opportunity to announce plans for future production models, though SEMA isn’t open to the public at large.
In an especially odd twist, Toyota is touting tricked-out versions of its youth-oriented Scion vehicles that aren’t even due in the market until next summer.
Like the rest of the automotive industry, SEMA is taking on a truck bent. Some of the biggest news comes from Dodge, with its new 5.7-liter Hemi, and from GM, with a string of high-performance production and concept trucks.
Since revealing its 345-hp Hemi powerplant in its heavy-duty trucks last February in Chicago, Chrysler has made no secret that engine production capacity far exceeds demand for the big rigs. At SEMA, Chrysler made the next piece of the plan official with the debut of the Hemi engine in its light-duty Dodge Ram 1500. The mid-2003-model-year truck arrives in showrooms in January, paving the way for the 2004 release of the rear-wheel-drive Hemi-powered 2005 Chrysler 300N sedan.
Chrysler touts its Hemi light-duty trucks as a less-expensive alternative to another hot truck on the show stand at SEMA, Chevrolet’s production Silverado Extended Cab SS, which packs an identical 345-hp punch from a 6.0-liter V8.
The Silverado and SSR Roadster shared the stage with a Silverado Regular Cab SS concept and concept versions of TrailBlazer SS and Tahoe SS, all from the GM Performance Division shop.
In the midst of SEMA’s extravagance, the regular-cab Silverado concept was a no-frills anomaly. A virtual stripper, the truck comes with few options to detract from its muscle car credentials or add to its 4190-pound curb weight—lightest of all Chevy trucks.
“If you look back at traditional hot rods and the heyday of the muscle car, serious enthusiasts always chose a vehicle with the fewest ‘extras,’” said Chevy general manager Kurt Ritter. “In the ’60s, it was common for a buyer to order a new Chevy SS model without a radio and, in some cases, a heat-er—just to gain a performance advantage.”
The truck comes with a radio and heater, but even power steering takes a back seat to weight saving. The standard 6.0-liter small-block V8 gets reworked versions of Corvette LS6 aluminum heads that provide better airflow. Combined with a higher compression ratio and a high-lift roller camshaft, the modified engine produces 395 hp at 5500 rpm and 409 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm (compared to 380 lb-ft for the standard engine).
Ford shows its 280-hp 2003 Thunderbird and a 305-hp Mustang Mach 1, along with a host of SVT products. But the Dearborn company’s British luxury car division Jaguar packs the surprise: a racing concept version of its awd X-Type. Jag’s concept marked a rarity at SEMA—a sanctioned appearance by a European manufacturer.
Jaguar said the concept is intended to gauge interest as a “project car” for enthusiasts, but also to explore options for racing in North America. The car draws its design inspiration from the Trans-Am and European touring car race series. Starting with a 3.0-liter V6 model equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, Paul Gentilozzi’s Lansing, Michigan-based Rocketsports Racing carried its experience from XKR-bodied Trans-Am cars into the racing X-Type. It widened the front and rear tracks by eight inches, added six- piston Brembo calipers and vented brake rotors, and fitted the car with ground effects and a rear wing, 18-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot racing tires.
Wearing a proper racing green paint scheme with “leaper” graphics, the car sends “a clear message to enthusiasts that motorsport is a vital and integral part of our DNA,” said Jaguar North America marketing veep George Ayres. When they rattle on about their DNA like they were on a show stand in Paris or Frankfurt, you know the OEMs are taking SEMA seriously.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....