SEMA News -- April 2009

The worldwide automotive industry is in the midst of changes the likes of which it has never seen before. Market fluctuations, technology advances, variations in the cost of fuel, lack of consumer credit and confidence are forcing vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and specialty-equipment companies to restructure and rethink the way they will do business in the coming months and years. For SEMA companies that wish to not only survive but thrive in these uncertain conditions, accurate and timely information is key. Tough times call for good thinking. Forward-looking organizations must not only understand major economic issues and driving forces, but also use that understanding in their strategic, tactical, operational and scenario planning. While there are numerous information sources, perhaps none is as targeted and relevant to the aftermarket industry and SEMA-member companies as the report from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) entitled, “The Specialty-Equipment Automotive Company of the Future: Guideposts for Strategic Planning (Phase I).”

No one knows exactly what the future holds, but the CAR researchers, with their in-depth knowledge, analysis and inner-circle contacts, surveyed industry leaders from vehicle manufacturers, original-equipment suppliers and all segments of the specialty-equipment market about how they see the future playing out. Commissioned by SEMA and conducted by the independent nonprofit CAR, this industry research report provides SEMA business owners and executives with accurate and timely information on critical topics, such as vehicle technology, OEM thinking and strategies, product portfolio plans, government regulatory developments and consumer trends. The project was initially developed as a strategic business planning tool to help members prepare for the near-term future two to five years from now. Additionally, Phase I, which focuses on vehicle electronics trends, can assist members with information and insights that may help them become stronger and better prepared to compete and plan through this current industry transformation.

“You may ask why the emphasis has been placed on body and chassis electronics in the first phase of the study,” said SEMA Vice President for Technology John Waraniak. “The CAR study focuses on vehicle electronics as well as powertrain challenges, opportunities and solutions; however, we didn’t want to wait until we had Phase II on powertrain completed. We wanted to give SEMA members access to the latest information about vehicle electronics, which is as much as 50% of the content of today’s vehicles. Vehicle electrification and decoupled development of electronic controls are changing the way body, chassis, infotainment, convenience, safety and powertrain systems are integrated with vehicle architectures and platforms.

“Due to the financial crisis and increased attention to fuel economy and alternative powertrains, much of what the OEMs are doing and planning regarding powertrains is drastically being restructured and would be totally irrelevant if surveyed six months ago. We want to ensure that information contained in Phase II of the CAR study is as accurate, timely and useful to SEMA members as possible. This report is a forecasting tool that looks at what automakers are doing today that may have an impact on our industry tomorrow as well as three, five or even seven years from now.”

What the automakers do affects the entire industry, even for those companies that are not directly involved with original-equipment value chains and partnerships. The CAR report includes ideas and insights about new value and revenue streams with both automakers and dealerships. Emerging technologies, business models and vehicle manufacturer strategies will directly impact SEMA-member companies’ ability to make compatible products and create new opportunities for customization. While the range of possible futures confronting the specialty-equipment aftermarket is great, SEMA companies that develop awareness and flexibility will be more prepared and more likely to survive and even grow during the current economic downturn.

A SEMA webinar explaining many of the concepts included in Phase I was conducted on January 15. The webinar, including audio and PowerPoint presentations, is available for download at SEMA members can obtain a PDF copy of the complete Phase I report by visiting