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As a result of increasing vehicle system integration and complexity, OEMs have been reluctant to grant SEMA-member companies access to a vehicle’s body and chassis electrical/electronic system architecture. As reported earlier, SEMA recently commissioned an in-depth study, which presents a potential methodology to overcome these challenges: The use of an authentication model, similar to that used in the consumer electronics and computer industries, which would allow member companies limited access to certain information, while still allowing OEMs final control over the end product.
The study, "The Specialty-Equipment Automotive Company of the Future: Guideposts for Strategic Planning (Phase I)" prepared by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), reveals that the authentication model, while relatively uncommon in the automotive industry, has been a successful solution to similar challenges in other industries.

Ideally, the model would include a method for the customer to determine that the product is in compliance with OEM vehicle systems. This method would require an authentication chip, which would manage communication between the OEMs and member companies, the creation of legal agreements and a validation process.

Such a strategy would allow qualified member companies limited access to certain critical information, while still allowing OEMs to control the end product.

One OEM representative interviewed for the CAR study said the OEM was actively exploring this concept for its consumer electronics technology. And while the OEM revealed it is not currently considering such a strategy for any other system, it did not rule out the possibility of moving in that direction in the future.

The challenge remains for member companies to produce products that do not alter the vehicle’s integrity, yet adapt to a more electronically systems-integrated vehicle.

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, CAR assistant director of the manufacturing, engineering and technology group, and Richard Wallace, CAR senior project manager.

“The CAR Study research has identified the authentication model as well as several vehicle manufacturer strategies that will be important for SEMA-member companies to include in their business plans and decision-making processes,” said John Waraniak, SEMA vice president of vehicle technology.

“Critical among those are increased, but still tentative interest by vehicle manufacturers in partnering with specialty-equipment suppliers; the paradox of more vehicle models from fewer platforms; reducing build-order complexity and limiting consumer options at the assembly plant, and expanded opportunities for SEMA members with dealer-installed options; and automotive retail dealers—the final frontier,” Waraniak added. “This webinar will present the opportunities identified and strategies to succeed in this rapidly evolving business environment."

Both Smith and Wallace authored the CAR study and will present findings from the report. Waraniak will moderate the session.

The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, January 15, 2009, from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. (PDT). For information on how to register for this webinar, click here.