The Golden Age of New Performance and Mobility

SEMA News—April 2016


By John Waraniak

The Golden Age of New Performance and Mobility

How Advanced Vehicle Technologies Are Transforming the Performance Industry
  Ford Display GT
The Ford GT race car was the centerpiece of Ford’s SEMA Show display.

Welcome to the golden age of new performance and mobility. Whether it’s gasoline, electric, hybrid or hydrogen, it’s a good time to be in the performance business. I know that the golden age of new performance sounds like a paradox, but this truly is an exciting time to be in the rapidly changing automotive industry.

The performance business is growing not just deeper in the traditional areas of speed, power and torque, but also wider in terms of the overall vehicle experience and the ability to accommodate new automotive and vehicle ownership lifestyles. Horsepower is being matched with computing power, and new market segments are being created in safety, emissions, vehicle electronics, connected and automated driving as well as mobility options.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, we were looking at 300hp engines. Today, we have 600hp engines—double the horsepower with a nearly 50% increase in fuel efficiency. The new production Ford GT is a great example of the latest technologies being applied to next-generation performance vehicles. It has a 630hp, 3.5L, twin-turbo, V6 EcoBoost engine matched to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Its 50 sensors generate more than 100 GB of data per hour, with six controller area networks processing 300 MB of data per second. It has active aerodynamics, gorilla glass, carbon fiber and 10 million lines of software code—three million more than a 787 Boeing Dreamliner and eight million more lines of code than a Lockheed F-22 fighter. These technologies and systems are not just there for convenience. There’s a very performance-driven purpose for all of those electronics systems, according to Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance. The street-version GT goes on sale later this year and serves as a test bed for advanced technologies and features that could become commonplace on future vehicles throughout Ford’s lineup.

Editor’s Note: In what has become an annual tradition, SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak recently shared his frontline perspectives with SEMA News on advanced vehicle technologies and what SEMA members need to know about how those technologies are impacting the performance and specialty-equipment industry.


Ford Motor Company’s GT race car returned to the racetrack for the first time since 1969 this past January, where it competed in the Rolex 24 at the Daytona International. Motorsports is often called one of the cruelest sports, and both GTs that were entered in the GTLM class experienced gearbox problems, and Chevy Corvettes finished one and two on the podium. The GT will also compete in the 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans this June. Ford’s involvement in racing goes back to the very foundation of the company. Ford Performance Marketing Manager Henry Ford III said, “It’s a great symbol of the innovation at Ford. We’re a company that always pushed the boundaries.
We are really excited about this race car, because while it certainly is a testament to our heritage and legacy, it really is very forward-looking and innovative.”

Performance is good business, but today it’s way more than just horsepower and power electronics. It’s about how performance technologies and product content are packaged and integrated with the vehicle as well as the social context of the vehicle.

  Ford Display GT
The Ford GT’s technologies and systems are not just there for convenience. There’s a very performance-driven purpose for all of the electronics systems, according to Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak.

Performance is an attitude as well as a lifestyle. Performance optimism is helping to drive the industry to record sales. Vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39% of new-car buyers, and today’s new high-tech performance vehicles are the Detroit automakers’ fastest selling and most profitable models. General Motors just unveiled an all-new Powertrain Performance and Racing Center that will turbocharge its racing-engine development program, and Ford is introducing 12 new performance vehicles in the next five years. Automakers around the world will continue to make high-tech, next-generation performance vehicles to raise their brands’ awareness and drive consumers into showrooms. Cars are works of art, power, access, fashion and fun. Performance brands engage emotion.

Technology is a competitive advantage. Branding is a competitive differentiator. Scott Bowers, chief marketing officer at Wheel Pros and former architect of Oakley’s marketing success for more than 25 years, has an excellent video, “What Makes a Brand Cool,” that we recorded at the SEMA Show and is available at SEMA’s Biz-Tips (

These latest performance, safety, connectivity and automation technologies onboard many of today’s vehicles are demonstrating their value to automakers and consumers, and they’re coming from both inside and outside automotive OEM and aftermarket companies.

New entrants from technology giants, automakers and suppliers to startups and aerospace companies are accelerating the pace of innovation, particularly in the area of safety performance, connected and autonomous cars.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
Drivers can retrofit and upgrade their older cars with the latest safety performance technologies from Brandmotion. The Advanced Driver Assistance System is a forward-crash and lane-departure warning system with the added benefit of a built-in digital video recorder.

We recently attended a briefing at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, to help facilitate the transfer of technology from aerospace to automotive aftermarket applications. The most important safety performance advancements for SEMA manufacturers to pay particular attention to and include in their technology roadmaps are Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, known as ADAS. These systems include electronic stability control, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and many other new systems making their way into dealer showrooms and customization shops around the world.

Developing a technology roadmap for your company is a critical tool for success. It helps you understand the latest and emerging disruptive technologies to ensure that you customize with confidence as well as provide a framework to help protect and future-proof your business by connecting these technologies to your core products and market segments. ADAS features offer high satisfaction to drivers. As the technologies rapidly mature, they will lead to semi-autonomous and autonomous cars. In a recent survey of 800 C-level global auto executives by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, 38% said that autonomous vehicles are an extremely important trend in the industry, up from just 3% last year.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research on ADAS and vehicle automation has already led to regulatory and other policy developments impacting the performance aftermarket, particularly suspension and lift-kit manufacturers. The agency’s work on electronic stability control (ESC), for example, led to the FMVSS126 standard mandating this form of automated technology on all new light vehicles since 2012. Through SEMA’s Vehicle Dynamics Program, 20 leading aftermarket suspension manufacturers have conducted more than 80 full-scale vehicle tests to demonstrate FMVSS126 and ESC compliance of aftermarket-modified vehicles as well as provide an industry knowledge base for developing SEMA’s Aftermarket ESC Math Model. The model will help manufacturers with vehicle dynamics product development, analysis and simulation. SEMA is currently developing test procedures with Link Engineering for functional and system compliance of new ADAS systems onboard many of today’s latest vehicles and the most popular models being modified by members.

In early 2015, NHTSA also began recommending automatic braking technologies as part of its assessment of a vehicle’s crash ratings. Automatic braking systems reduce rear-end crashes by about 40%, adding momentum to equip all new cars with the technology. While automatic braking technology does not affect a vehicle’s star rating, the systems are now included in NHTSA’s list of recommended safety technologies, which include backup cameras as well as lane-departure and impending-collision warning systems, many of which are provided by aftermarket companies.

More than 33,000 people lost their lives last year on our nation’s highways. ADAS and connected and automated vehicle technologies will significantly reduce the number of deaths on our roads. The aftermarket industry is playing an increasingly significant role in retrofitting and installing many of these systems and technologies on the 250 million vehicles already on U.S. roads. Jeff Varick, Brandmotion CEO and president, has positioned his company as an aftermarket leader with ADAS vehicle-to-vehicle solutions and custom accessories such as backup cameras, 360º camera systems, front-facing cameras and parking sensors as well as a nationwide distribution network of installers for accelerating the deployment of these systems and aftermarket safety devices.

SEMA companies specializing in mobile electronics can create new business opportunities with infotainment features that integrate with ADAS capabilities. Delivering more synchronized ADAS and infotainment product strategies and solutions can help drivers take full advantage of the active safety technology installed on or available as aftermarket upgrades in their vehicles. An example would be building relevant ADAS information into the infotainment system to create a more effective and seamless human/machine interface.

SEMA companies seeking to leverage and capitalize on the latest ADAS technologies—as well as demonstrate functional and system compliance to ensure that these systems are operating after modification and customization—also need to pay particular attention to the evolving regulatory and legal landscape, shifting consumer and social demand patterns and automotive cybersecurity challenges. SEMA’s vehicle technology programs, government-affairs expertise and SEMA Garage services and benefits are available to members to help them continue growing and prospering in the evolving automotive specialty-equipment industry.

Self-Driving Cars and Mobility

FMVSS126 ESC Compliance
More than 20 SEMA suspension manufacturers, including Pro Comp, have conducted 80 full-scale vehicle tests to demonstrate FMVSS126 and ESC compliance of aftermarket-modified vehicles.

Silicon Valley and Detroit are on the grid and in a race to take self-driving cars to the next level. Self-driving cars, connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies and systems are certainly getting the headlines at this year’s auto shows, as well the automakers’ attention and budgets. However, I believe that connected and autonomous driving will coexist with the joy and passion for driving for the foreseeable future.

  Scott Bowers
Scott Bowers, CMO at Wheel Pros, participated in the SEMA Performance and Design Forum and recorded the “What Makes a Brand Cool” video, now available at SEMA Biz-Tips (

The federal government plans to invest $4 billion to help get autonomous cars onto U.S. roads, but attorneys say that there are still many liability and deployment issues to address before self-driving cars hit the mainstream. The money will primarily go to helping state and local governments get ready for deployment. David Strickland, partner at Venable LLP and a member of SEMA’s Vehicle Electronics Task Force as well as the former head of NHTSA, believes that this transition money is likely to go to infrastructure incentives for the states to harmonize general rules of the road and help states and localities establish automated driving lanes.

Disruptive technologies, next-generation customization and new players as well as traditional suppliers and aftermarket companies from the Motor City and Silicon Valley are leading the connected and automated vehicle revolution. The result is both heated functional competition and unprecedented cooperation and collaboration between two industries and cultures that rarely spoke to each other just five years ago. Fully self-driving cars are a few years into the future, but some of the enabling technologies that will make them possible are already here.

Semi-autonomous features used to be found only on luxury cars, but they’re quickly migrating to mainstream and performance brands as technology gets cheaper. Many features now ubiquitous in vehicles, such as electronic stability control, antilock brakes, backup cameras and keyless entry, started as high-priced extras in luxury cars and trickled down to mainstream vehicles over many years. Electronic stability control became mandatory in 2011 after it first appeared on the BMW 7 Series 15 years earlier. Government regulations accelerated the deployment of electronic stability control and, with the latest wave of ADAS technologies and reduced costs, that deployment and trickle down seem to be accelerating across platforms and models. Toyota, for example, will offer automatic braking, pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning for just a few hundred dollars on all of its vehicles by 2017.

Car-sharing and ride-hailing services with new mobility players and companies such as Uber, Lyft, Maven and Zipcar, as well as fully autonomous systems developed by Apple, Google and Cruise, will drive automakers and a growing number of consumers into mobility relationships that don’t involve personal vehicle ownership. Therein lie substantial risks to traditional-thinking automakers and aftermarket companies that choose to ignore the consequences of inaction. Mark Fields, Ford’s president and CEO, summed up the challenges and opportunities being created by new mobility solutions very well.

“I describe our strategy as having one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow,” Fields said. “We are becoming a mobility company and an auto company.”

SEMA Vehicle Electronics Program

Colin Dyne
Colin Dyne, CEO and chairman of Red Bull Global Rallycross, spoke at SEMA’s Racing and Performance Forum. He stated that, in order to stay relevant, many automakers from Ford to Ferrari are downsizing engines with smaller turbocharged engines from larger, naturally aspirated engines to improve fuel economy and lower vehicle emissions.

A new SEMA Vehicle Electronics Program is moving forward with the formation of the Vehicle Electronics Task Force, which consists of an outstanding group of industry leaders from aftermarket, automaker, supplier and technology companies. The charter for the new program and task force is to lead the development of a collaborative program focused on understanding vehicle electronics business and product-development opportunities as well as the challenges of functional and regulatory compliance for aftermarket customization and integration of ADAS technologies, automotive and consumer electronics.

Brembo, an acknowledged leader and innovator of disc-brake technology, is an excellent example of a performance company embracing new vehicle electronics technologies. The Brembo rear Extrema caliper used on the Ferrari Enzo is one of the most technologically advanced calipers in production and combines a high-performance, fixed aluminum caliper for the brake function on ceramic discs with an integrated, floating, electrically-actuated caliper for the parking function.

Vehicle software modification and customization is an area of vehicle electronics that SEMA members need to pay particular attention to. Cars are being designed today to run on code. The cost for a vehicle’s software ranges from $350–$1,000. However, the electronics, hardware, computer chips, displays and user controls using the software can add another $2,000–$6,000 to a vehicle’s cost. Software is the major factor—and in some cases the deciding factor.

Since the beginning of the industry, automakers have traditionally sold vehicles mainly based on horsepower, utility, convenience and, in some cases, fashion. But that’s changing fast. At one time, it was important to show that cars could be fast. And many aftermarket companies helped show the industry that we could make fast cars. We stopped going faster at Indy more than 20 years ago and plateaued at 225 mph. Today, as we get set for the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, the challenge is to make cars fast but do it with less energy and fewer vehicle emissions. Vehicle electronics will play an increasingly important role in meeting these challenges, and aftermarket companies will continue to help develop vehicles with technologies and features that are affordable and that consumers want to purchase.

Vehicles within a given segment have reached a level of commoditization and relative parity on performance and fuel economy while active safety, connected-vehicle technologies and vehicle-electronics features have become deciding factors for consumers. Many people actually select vehicles based on whether they work with their smartphones. Apple’s design expertise with CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto technologies are compelling choices for drivers demanding to stay safely connected while in their cars.

  Toyota Mirai
The Toyota ’16 Mirai took to the track as the first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle to pace a NASCAR race this past year at Richmond, Virginia.

Alternative and Advanced Powertrains

Powertrain engineers have never been more challenged. They must balance consumer demands for greater performance and improved drivability with environmental and societal needs for better fuel economy and reduced emissions. Convincing consumers to choose more fuel- and energy-efficient technologies that are also more expensive when fuel prices are low is not an easy task. The Toyota ’16 Mirai took to the track as the first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle to pace a NASCAR race this past year at Richmond, Virginia. The Mirai is available for about $58,000 and is one of the most advanced vehicles available today.

Designing an internal-combustion gas engine involves balancing four factors: performance, emissions, durability and fuel economy. Cylinder deactivation is great technology for increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining torque requirements. The combination of direct injection and turbocharging has enabled smaller engines to increase performance and compete with larger displacements while using less fuel.

Brembo Caliper
Brembo’s rear Extrema caliper used on the Ferrari Enzo is one of the most technologically advanced calipers. It combines a high-performance, fixed, aluminum caliper for the brake with an integrated, floating, electrically actuated caliper for the parking function.

Colin Dyne, CEO and chairman of Red Bull Global Rallycross, did a great job at our recent Racing and Performance Forum explaining how Red Bull Global Rallycross provides a platform that facilitates technology transfer relevant to today’s automotive trends.

“Downsizing engines with smaller turbocharged engines from larger naturally aspirated engines is an industry trend from Ford to Ferrari,” he said. “The increased efficiency is better for fuel economy, and the lower emissions are better for the environment.”

The auto industry and the world face new challenges with fuel-economy targets and environmental concerns over vehicle emissions. According to the design firm Fitch Global, three-quarters of teens around the world consider climate change a greater risk than drugs, violence or war. Generation Z, today’s 14- to 19-year-olds, is the most culturally diverse generation to date and will be the largest group of consumers worldwide in four years, making up 40% of U.S., European and BRIC-country (Brazil, Russia, India and China) buyers and 10% in the rest of the world. They believe in a world where good works are not just for volunteers but are an intrinsic part of society, especially in the corporate world. Their beliefs and values will shape the future of mainstream retail and—perhaps even more importantly—form the next-generation workforce many automaker and aftermarket companies will be hiring over the next five to 10 years.

Performance Optimism and Next-Gen Engineers

Advanced vehicle technology coupled with consumer demand for connectivity and customization is transforming the performance industry and lowering barriers for new players to enter the business. That has significant implications for both automakers and aftermarket manufacturers.

  Jim Campbell
Jim Campbell, vice president of GM Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, summed up the reasons why GM races with four key areas: technology transfer, connecting with customers, reinforcing branding and developing engineers and talent pipelines for future technologies.

The industry’s romance with performance cars is still going strong. Although they are small in terms of production, performance vehicles and specialty-equipment products bring excitement and positive emotional connections to an enthusiastic driving public and car lovers everywhere. The advanced vehicle technologies leading the golden age of new performance and mobility are also creating many new and exciting business opportunities and careers in science, technology, engineering and math as well as art and design that did not exist in the industry just five years ago.

Performance and racing are the roots of the SEMA community of companies. Before a company decides to go racing, it defines the costs and objectives of the program. But beyond the budget, the key question is how racing connects our products, brands, fans and customers.

Jim Campbell, vice president of GM Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, summed up the reasons why GM races with four key areas: Technology transfer from the track to street performance; connect with customers through social engagement; reinforce branding with frontline authenticity; and develop engineers and talent pipelines for future technologies. Using racing as a crucible to develop future superstar engineers, designers, aerodynamicists and electronics experts who will power a company’s technological expertise into the future is one of the most sustainable competitive advantages in the golden age of new performance.

New breeds of automotive performance engineers are evolving with skill sets such as software and systems engineering as technology integration talent becomes a key strength for automakers and performance aftermarket companies. Software is becoming increasingly important and is leading to a rapid shift from “hardware performance” to “software experience.” Advanced materials and manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing and metal injection molding are also bringing exciting innovations and flexibility to product development for SEMA manufacturers. Innovation and talent are the two primary investments automakers and specialty-equipment companies need for creating a competitive advantage and staying relevant with advanced vehicle technology, consumer and social demands.

President Obama visited the 2016 North American International Auto Show on January 20 and saw firsthand the innovation in transportation technology that promises to drive the future of the global automotive industry. More importantly, his visit demonstrated how important the iconic auto industry is for economic growth and jobs, as well as how far the auto industry and the Motor City of Detroit have come since the recession and industry crisis of 2008.

Detroit and SEMA are pure Americana. Detroit and the auto industry represent the birthplace, if not the gateway, to our country’s middle class. And SEMA is the birthplace of American customization.

Being born and raised in the Motor City and now based there for SEMA makes me proud to represent and position SEMA-member companies on the front lines of automotive innovation with OEMs and suppliers and ensure that the performance aftermarket continues to have a place and a voice in the golden age of new performance and mobility.

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