Discover California Dealer Trends From the 2008 SEMA Show

After witnessing the vast array of specialty-equipment products available to all vehicles at the
2008 SEMA Show, Jim Hitchcock, general sales manager for Auburn Honda, now realizes the
value of pushing aftermarket sales.

Every year, dealers from throughout the world make the trek to Las Vegas in order to attend the highly anticipated SEMA Show. At the 2008 SEMA Show, no state delivered more dealer attendees than California, with 24% of the dealers based out of the Golden State.

Jim Hitchcock, general sales manager for Auburn, California-based Auburn Honda, and a 2008 SEMA Show attendee, offers his opinion on why California produced the most dealer participation.

“California is the leader in vehicle customization,” Hitchcock said. “People in California seem to be more individualistic and care more about their cars. I used to work back East, and the transportation here seems to be more of a reflection of the individual.”

Ken Crossman, dealer principal of North Hollywood, California-based Smart Center Universal City, believes that accessibility is a key reason that California dealers make the annual trip to the SEMA Show.

“I don’t need much of an excuse to go to Vegas, and the SEMA Show is a great reason to go,” Crossman said. “I have been going for at least 10 years, and the Show is always the cutting edge of what is new and what is next.”

After attending the Show, Hitchcock realized that there are more opportunities in aftermarket products than he previously considered.

“The biggest thing that we took away from the Show is to really push aftermarket sales because there is a bigger demand for it than we thought,” Hitchcock said. “We could see that just from the volume of products offered at the Show.”

Ken Crossman, dealer principal of Smart Center Universal City, was interested in viewing
products for the smart car.

Smart Center's Crossman was looking for products aimed at their group's newest smart car franchise.

“We saw a lot of manufacturers of accessories for the smart car,“ Crossman said. “The aftermarket accessories for it were really good at the recent Show.”

Crossman was also interested in the all-in-one electronics devices, which he believes will be a growing trend among consumers.

“We have been selling Pioneer and Kenwood all-in-one products.” Crossman said. “I think in terms of electronics, people want seamless integration where they have their iPod, Bluetooth, satellite radio, DVD player and navigation all rolled into one touch-screen product without having to buy five different components.”

Overall, California dealers displayed the greatest product interest in both restyling and performance accessories, according to data collected by SEMA.

The following is the complete breakdown of 2008 SEMA Show dealer attendees according to state:

At the Show, dealers also had the opportunity to attend the inaugural 2008 SEMA Show Dealer Day Program, co-hosted by SEMA and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The half-day event was designed to give dealer principals resources on how to successfully integrate accessory programs at their dealerships.

“I really liked the effort that SEMA made in reaching out to NADA and attracting dealers’ attention to the specialty-equipment market,” Crossman said.