The SEMA/AAIW Auto show, the most important automotive aftermarket event of the year, took place at its usual location in the Hilton Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. This year's show seemed larger than ever, in spite of the economic recession and the nationwide tragedy that struck in September, and the convention grounds proved it. The SEMA show and its related entities took up the entire convention center (three halls) and several nearby parking locations hosting manufacturer car displays, demos, and celebrations.
Automobile manufacturers were out in full battle gear, showcasing their support for the racing industry by unveiling new model platforms that seemed likely to be embraced by consumers and the automotive aftermarket. Most noticeable was the presence of Ford Motor Co. and its fleet of subsidiaries taking a large section of the convention center and making its presence felt. Of course, the ever popular Ford Focus thumbed its nose at import competitors by being showcased in every form ranging from showroom stock to race-ready shock. Chevrolet also unveiled several "import killers" in the form of race-prepped Cavalier Z24s. Not to be outdone, American Honda Motor Co. displayed its growing alliance with the import performance community by displaying Japanese-spec RSXs and several drag race vehicles to be campaigned in the 2002 race season.
Of course, the automotive aftermarket manufacturers lived up to their end of the bargain by showcasing their latest offerings as well. The big focus this year seemed to be programmable electronic engine management. With all the electronics that go into cars these days, it only makes sense that end-user programmability would find its way to the forefront of automotive technology. New systems by AEM, ACCEL DFI, GReddy, Holley, Hondata, and many others made their debut or re-established their presence and captured the interested eyes of those "in the know." This trend is definitely something to watch as we move further along into the computer generation. In addition, the tuning approach that we like to call "The Total Package" finally made the big-time as major multimedia player Pioneer Electronics teamed up with HKS and Sparco (whose names you should know by now) to bring about several outstanding vehicles that showcased both performance tuning and multimedia tweaking.
As the race season comes to a close during SEMA, the big show marks the introduction of new vehicles to be campaigned for the next event schedule. If the cars in the stables of the SEMA booths are any indicators, expect the Outlaw class to grow in size as manufacturers and distributors sponsor a larger field of go-fast hotboxes that break all the rules. The highly competitive All-Motor class also heats up with the emergence of the competition tube chassis cars seeking to take the title away from the unibodies. Of course, the current race warriors were on display for up-close-and-personal examinations by attendees-if you've ever wanted to get under Stephan's hood, SEMA was the place to do it.
Whether you're an exhibitor, a buyer, or a member of the press, SEMA is the only place to be in early November. Five days of performance parts, race cars, and pretty girls is more than anyone can ask for. And we're not even going to talk about the night life. If the convention is this good, just imagine how the after-hours parties are. After all, it is Las Vegas.