Make no mistake, for as awesome as the annual SEMA trade show is for car geeks, it's still largely an event for businesses that cater to much bigger audiences than fans of imports. Think classic American cars, hot rods, trucks, and the like; sure, we're in an era of crosspollination, and before long the lines that used to separate enthusiasts will be all but gone — but in the meantime, if your main interest is car brands with Japanese nameplates, knowing where to go in the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) before you tackle the show is a definite must. Which is why we devised this - an import fan's guide to navigating SEMA.
The LVCC complex is split up into three main, ginormous auditoriums, the South, Central, and North Halls. The South Hall is known for wheel and tire company booths, the North for its in-car entertainment outfits, but the Central Hall is where many of the performance companies are represented, and as a result where a lot of the tuner media's time is focused. In addition to some of the bigger aftermarket brands that have exhibition space, automakers like Honda and Toyota also have a presence (although this year is the first Scion hasn't had a booth in some time).
Generally, the area that most people see first as they arrive to the LVCC are the lots out in front of the convention center, which get transformed into a mix of car show and crazy driving demos (drifting, ride alongs, et al). We haven't ventured too deeply into the section yet, especially since it rained in Vegas for the first time in forever, but that's on our to-do list this week.
Not all the action is limited to the halls; in between the auditoriums are lots of clean, often overlooked show cars - or in the case of the space in between the North Hall and LVCC-adjacent Westgate Hotel, Optima parked all of the competitor cars for its 2015 Ultimate Street Car Invitational. Like last year, SEMA has a ton of Rocket Bunny widebody-clad vehicles (some peppered in the midway between the North and Central Halls), which we thought we were totally over until we saw the Boss version on a handful of S14 at the show - very nice.
Not a ton to see in the North Hall, but we did check out the concepts in Mazda's booth. And actually, we were a bit surprised to see a handful of modified new MX-5 throughout the show, which seems to respond well (at least visually) to personalization.
The adventure continues tomorrow - come on back to see the rest of our import fan's tour of the 2015 SEMA Show.