The SEMA Design Awards were created to recognize and celebrate the collaboration between original-equipment manufacturers and specialty-equipment businesses. Today’s automakers build the most efficient, powerful and comfortable vehicles ever created, and they offer a wealth of options for car and truck buyers of every stripe.

Yet they cannot possibly accommodate every consumer’s unique requirements or desires. In every category from mobile electronics to performance enhancements and from interior accessories to cargo-carrying improvements, specialty-equipment businesses augment factory offerings to produce an even more pleasurable and practical automotive experience for the world’s drivers.

Consumers look for vehicles that provide the best possible mix of styling, performance, safety and efficiency for their specific lifestyles. SEMA-member companies offer valuable contributions in each of those areas for virtually any type of vehicle. The SEMA Design Awards honor those cars and trucks that a select group of voters has chosen as the most inviting and receptive to accessorization in four categories: car, truck, SUV and hybrid.

For the 2009 model year, the judging for the SEMA Design Awards was performed by members of the automotive media, including writers and editors who work on enthusiast, consumer and trade publications and websites. Because they cover specific markets as well as the whole industry, the automotive media are knowledgeable yet evenhanded in their treatment of the various automakers, tending to link impartiality with credibility in the work they do.

To be eligible for one of the four awards—Accessory-Friendly Car, Accessory-Friendly Truck, Accessory-Friendly SUV and Accessory-Friendly Hybrid—each nominated vehicle must be either all new or significantly redesigned. The voting was conducted over several weeks in September and October to allow for processing prior to the SEMA Show, where the Design Awards were announced.

For 2009, the winning vehicles were the Chevrolet Camaro as Accessory-Friendly Car, the Ford F-150 as Accessory-Friendly Truck, the Ford Flex as Accessory-Friendly SUV and the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid as Accessory-Friendly Hybrid.

While dozens of other vehicles were also introduced or redesigned for the 2009 model year and received significant support from the media voters, the four winners carried convincing majorities. The Camaro, F-150, Flex and Escalade Hybrid have earned their SEMA Design Awards.

Ford F-150

Truck Trend Editor Mark Williams says that the F-150 is almost tailor-made for companies looking to address an exact niche for their specific customer base. “Anything that can increase or improve the multidimensionality of a truck or SUV gives the owner that much more reason to keep the vehicle,” he said. “There will be big opportunities for those who can give a big personality-change bang for a truck-owner’s buck.”

Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

“The aftermarket has already developed a high level of accessorization for the conventionally powered model,” stated Drew Hardin of Drew Hardin Media, “so the hybrid buyer can enjoy fuel-economy improvements without having to give up the SUV’s customization potential.” Hardin feels that opportunities also exist for monitors, gauges and other means of displaying the truck’s mpg that are more innovative than the factory-offered readouts. 

Chevrolet Camaro

Paul Huizenga, editor of Race Pages magazine says the first wave of Camaro buyers will have a strong desire to upgrade their cars. “Drawing from what we saw with the new Mustang, the bulk of the demand will be for upgrades, such as wheels, body kits and styling elements,” he said, “but don’t discount the demand for hardcore performance parts either.”

Ford Flex

“The Ford Flex has the kind of interesting exterior styling that encourages modifications, and its vast interior space and high-tech features suggest interior modifications, such as Blue-ray entertainment players,” said Editor-in-Chief Karl Brauer. “The wheels play a major role in the Flex’s styling, so changing or upgrading them could play a major role in personalizing the vehicle."