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Identify Opportunities, Produce Parts Faster With SEMA Measuring Sessions

  Mazda5 Measuring Session
  SEMA manufacturing members got a hands-on preview of the Mazda5 during a recent Measuring Session held at SEMA's headquarters.
Things move fast in today's automotive industry. With numerous mainstream automakers constantly releasing new models, high-performance versions and mid-cycle updates, the slightest changes often impact the performance and fit of specialty-equipment components. And those companies with existing components are never assured of an accurate fit when the a new model or update rolls off the assembly line.

Now in its fourteenth year, the SEMA Measuring Session program is in place to provide specialty-equipment manufacturers access to new vehicles before they hit dealerships or immediately upon release. These are not simply preview sessions. Participants are allotted 30 minutes to climb in and around the vehicle, taking measurements and pulling off parts for closer examination. For many of the sessions cameras are allowed, and two people per company can investigate the vehicle at once. In addition to the presence of the vehicle, oftentimes staff from participating automakers are on hand to answer questions and provide feedback about the model being examined.

Jim Kilbourne, Mazda's program manager of accessory operations, recently accompanied the 2012 Mazda5 to its measuring session date at the SEMA headquarters. After his discussions with several of the session's participants, he was able to determine just what parts and accessories specialty-equipment companies had ideas to add or upgrade.

  Mazda5 Measuring Session
  Several members identified audio upgrades, such as new speakers and larger stereo units, and expanded lighting options, such as replacements for the fog lights, as immediate opportunities for the Mazda5.
"Several participants mentioned audio upgrades and exterior lighting as key areas where improvements could be made," said Kilbourne.

Due to no BOSE system available from the factory, according to Kilbourne, speaker upgrades and the possibility of single and 2- DIN options for the head unit were some of the key items mentioned among the audio companies.

"Various exterior lighting upgrades, especially light options to replace the fog lights, were discussed by some of the lighting companies," explained Kilbourne.

In addition to his observations, specialty-equipment companies may also be interested in some of Kilbourne's feedback on the Mazda5. When asked what were some of the more popular upgrades and packages customers add to their Mazda5 purchases, Kilbourne offered some valuable insight.

"The most popular OE package is the moonroof/audio package at about 15% of the purchases, followed by the pearl paint at approximately 10%" detailed Kilbourne. "As for the port-installed accessories, the wheel locks are most popular, at about 19%, followed by rear bumper guards (9%) and all-weather floor mats (6.5%)." According to Kilbourne, the Mazda5 moonroof/audio package consists of a moonroof, 6-disc CD changer and Sirius satellite radio.

  Mazda5 Measuring Session
  Armando Zambrano (left) and Amparo Lopez used the SEMA Measuring Session to create a Mazda5 pattern to add to Wet Okole Hawaii's line of neoprene seat covers.
Seat cover manufacturer Wet Okole Hawaii has attended many SEMA Measuring Sessions in the past and recently had the opportunity to obtain measurements from the Mazda5. With the rapid pace that vehicle interiors and seat designs change, the company uses measuring sessions as one way to keep the shelves stocked with as many options for customers as the company can create.

"When auto manufacturers extend the series of a vehicle, such as LX, EXT, SI, etc., which often includes changing electric options, lumbar options and baby restraint set-ups, it takes patterning costs through the roof," said Tracy Willms, VP of sales for Wet Okole. "However, it gives Wet Okole an advantage because we offer all of those options in our seat covers, options that our competition does not."

In addition to helping Wet Okole bolster the variety of the covers they offer, measuring sessions help the company to plan ahead. While vehicles provided at the sessions only account for a fraction of the patterns Wet Okole produces each year, having the vehicle in a central location for a set period of time takes some of the sting out of hunting down new cars and trucks.

"The measuring sessions are a tremendous help," added Willms. "I would love to take patterns at SEMA rather than to try and hunt them down at the dealer."

Whether it's new lighting, seat-cover updates or audio upgrades, specialty-equipment companies will continue to create the unique options and design trends that their customers crave. And as new vehicles and updates are released from automakers, the Measuring Session program will continue to provide SEMA members with access to the vehicles ready to hit the streets.

For more information on SEMA Measuring Sessions, contact Bill Wolf at SEMA, 909/396-0289, ext. 6739.