Signals, Trends and Messages From the 2018 SEMA Show

SEMA News—January 2019

Signals, Trends and Messages From the 2018 SEMA Show

Chris Kersting

Chris Kersting

With the 2018 SEMA Show in the books, the industry collectively turns to follow-up. For exhibitors and buyers, pursuing leads and contacts from the Show can lay the foundation for a successful year ahead. Likewise here at SEMA, the weeks following the Show are filled with post-Show assessments, including gauging where the industry is headed.

Our review this year showed trends and patterns emerging, often crossing various segments. Some of those patterns may hold significance for the industry as a whole. For example, the OEM community, while honoring the past, is moving swiftly toward the future. Case in point: Chevrolet unveiled a “concept” electric COPO Camaro that is capable of competitive quarter-mile runs. Even more intriguing, Chevrolet displayed the two-motor powerplant as if it were a bolt-in crate engine product. The display was surrounded by fans and skeptics throughout the week, but the hardware was real, and the message was that GM aims to lead a new, emerging category of performance.

GM was not the only one bringing a technological message to the Show. Toyota displayed a fuel-cell-powered Tundra pickup, and another exhibitor showed off a restomod hot rod with a transplanted Tesla electric motor. The OEMs are clearly committed to advanced technology, even if it means taking resources from their present-day operations, and those technologies are in the process of leaking into the aftermarket consciousness. That’s a message that the specialty aftermarket industry should consider as we allocate resources in our own long-term strategic planning.

Data gleaned from the Show also indicates trends in the works. The Hot Rod Alley section of the Show grew significantly in both exhibitor participation and footprint. Interestingly, it featured creations that blend classic style with modern-day features. By pairing traditional styling with modern amenities, such as air conditioning, power locks, Bluetooth electronics and state-of-the-art engines, the hot-rod segment is thriving and evolving to embrace a broader, younger demographic.

That isn’t to say the world is going to change overnight. MOPAR created a huge amount of buzz with the first-ever 1,000hp crate engine, and GM displayed its portfolio of more than 30 different crate engines—demonstrating its assessment that traditional enthusiast markets will continue to grow and thrive.

Nonetheless, as the fleet of cars and technology on the road today become increasingly advanced, a long-range view is important. A hot topic among our educational offerings at the Show was the impact of telematics, advanced safety systems and technology in general. We saw impressive attendance and high ratings for sessions dedicated to those topics. Advanced vehicle technology was also a dominant theme at the Show’s annual OEM Roundtable session, and the collision-repair industry sponsored well-attended tech-themed seminars for the collision-repair segment. In the New Products Showcase, buyer scans indicated growing interest in mobile-electronics products incorporating wireless technology, WiFi, GPS and all kinds of cameras.

Each year, the SEMA Show represents a culmination of all the best ideas and innovation our industry has to offer. It is also a collective indicator of the trends the industry believes are important for a successful future. This year, advanced vehicle technology of every sort stood out as a leading area of focus. Whether you’re involved in products for vehicles from the past or those rolling out now, technology is an increasingly bright star to steer by. 

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