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Ford drastically reduced the ordering combinations available on its best-selling F-150 pickup, according to a report in Automotive News, and other manufacturers have moved to reduce the scope and types of options that they would provide at the dealership in order to save on overhead costs. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

As reported earlier, SEMA has funded an in-depth study, which reveals that difficulties being faced by the automotive industry are prompting many automakers to explore the traditionally ignored specialty-equipment market, presenting what can be either a challenge or an opportunity to SEMA member-companies.

The study, "The Specialty-Equipment Automotive Company of the Future: Guideposts for Strategic Planning (Phase I)," prepared by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), identified five vehicle manufacturers strategies — as listed in the earlier report — that members must be aware of in order to prepare for this structural change.

Of these five strategies, two have been identified as extremely time-sensitive. First, many automakers are increasingly interested in the specialty-equipment market, and it is important for SEMA members to explore a relationship with the OEMs. Second, most automakers are focusing their performance, chassis and appearance strategy on small (and performance) cars and pickups.

Members who serve the small-car segments will have the opportunity to grow with this change. However, those who have been successful serving the pickup market must consider how their products can be adapted to other segments. The changing mix of light vehicles makes it clear that what has worked for many members in the past may not work in the future.

“The CAR study findings and forecasts cannot predict the future; however, they will provide critical and timely insights and input to scenario-planning processes to define potential challenges, opportunities and solutions that can then be used by member companies to develop their strategic and tactical action plans,” said John Waraniak, SEMA vice president of vehicle technology.

The study identified three pathways for members in the coming years: 1) partnerships with OEMs, 2) gaining information through the Technology Transfer Program and Measuring Sessions, and 3) reverse engineering. All three will be viable going forward, but members that choose the reverse-engineering pathway will find it increasingly difficult and may also put other specialty-equipment suppliers in jeopardy. These three business routes will be covered in-depth during the webinar detailed below.

As the automotive industry undergoes one of the most rapid and significant structural changes in decades, it is essential that SEMA members understand this business-model transformation and act upon it in order to ensure their success and longevity.

“This study is an excellent example of how SEMA is developing and delivering programs, activities and information in anticipation and response to the emerging and ongoing needs of our members,” said Waraniak.

To gain insights from the CAR report, participate in the "The Specialty-Equipment Automotive Company of the Future: Guideposts for Strategic Planning (Phase I)" webinar, presented by Brett Smith, assistant director of the manufacturing, engineering and technology group at CAR, and Richard Wallace, senior project manager at CAR.

Both Smith and Wallace authored the CAR study and will present findings from the report. The session will be moderated by John Waraniak.

The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, January 15, 2009 from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. (PDT). For further details on the webinar, send your name, company, e-mail and phone number to