Business Tools

Vehicle Strategies and Tech Trends That Will Drive the Next Decade

Last week’s SEMA webinar highlighted “The Specialty-Equipment Automotive Company of the Future: Guideposts for Strategic Planning” (Phase I) study prepared by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). SEMA and CAR developed the study to provide members with guideposts or insights for business planning, whether it is strategic, tactical or operational.

The session was moderated by John Waraniak, SEMA vice president of vehicle technology, and featured speakers Brent Smith, CAR assistant director of manufacturing, engineering and technology, and Richard Wallace, CAR senior project manager.

The goal of the study was to identify vehicle-manufacturer strategies, technology trends and federal policies that will drive SEMA members into the coming decade. The study was constructed by collecting information and insight from the entities that will help shape the industry’s future—the car companies, suppliers, vehicle dealers and specialty-equipment market suppliers.

Here are some findings from the study highlighted during the session: 

  • CAR estimates that much less than 1% of the specialty-equipment market is direct to the assembly plant.
  • Less than 5% of specialty-equipment sales are through new-car dealers.
  • Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly interested in the specialty-equipment market, however, they are not sure what to make of it.
  • Most vehicle manufacturers are focusing their performance, chassis and appearance specialty-equipment strategies on small cars, specialty cars and light trucks. There is uncertainty if this would translate into other segments.
  • Vehicle manufacturers will continue to nurture in-house performance brands.
  • There is an increasing—but still somewhat limited—trend for vehicle manufacturers to design their vehicles for accessorization.
  • The traditional dealership model is changing; they can no longer rely on warranty work and vehicle sales to maintain strong revenues.
  • SEMA should offer pathways for members to establish and grow relationships with vehicle manufacturers and OE suppliers.
  • Current SEMA programs (Measuring Sessions, Technology Transfer) were highlighted as means to continue to increase the communication between vehicle manufacturers and specialty-equipment suppliers.

Most vehicle manufacturers have identified that the specialty-equipment industry can deliver products that carmakers can’t. The current economic climate and structural changes experienced by vehicle manufacturers have led to a willingness for them to go outside of the box. For example, Smith explained that vehicle manufacturers Ford and Chrysler have expressed interest in bringing specialty-equipment companies on board early in product development.

"Vehicle manufacturers are looking to create lasting relationships, and they want a way to identify specialty-equipment suppliers with interest, capability and track record to partner with," said Smith. Vehicle manufacturers indicated that one of the first steps needed to make specialty-equipment partnerships more commonplace would be to develop some form of certification as a starting point.

The webinar covers the complete findings from the study, which includes the emergence of connected-vehicle technology trends and the potential impact of the legislative and regulatory environment on the specialty-equipment industry.   

To download the audio and PDF of this webinar, visit

SEMA's Webinar Program: The SEMA webinar program brings the world-class business seminars featured during the SEMA Show right to your desktop. Different business-building sessions are constantly added to the program, offering members the latest insight and practices from today’s leading speakers.

All SEMA webinars are conducted live and are open to all employees of SEMA-member companies free of charge. To participate, all you need is a computer with Internet access and a telephone. All previous SEMA webinars are available for download by clicking here. To view upcoming presentations that you can attend via telephone and Internet, click here.