Every year, I'm convinced that the SEMA show in Las Vegas can't get any bigger. And every year, I'm wrong.
I shouldn't call it SEMA. It's the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week and includes AAPEX, MEMA, AAIA and TANA. Don't ask me what all these letters stand for except that it's aftermarket week in Las Vegas, and it's getting bigger and better and tougher on your feet every year.
The associations put on very informative shows. I saw a lot of old friends and enjoyed walking through the exhibits like a little kid at F.A.O. Schwartz. But there also was a lot to learn.
This year, there seemed to be more polarization among companies in the aftermarket. Not many companies are interested in all those different markets, but the performance segment of the aftermarket heads in two directions.
At SEMA, more and more companies offered performance and cosmetic products for what we'll call 'pocket rockets.' They include import and domestic vehicles, almost exclusively front-wheel drive, with engines displacing two liters or less. That market is exploding, and the factories are just as interested in it as the aftermarket companies are.
Ford, for example, had some wild versions of the Focus, which probably aren't as wild as the ones that customers will create. Honda and Acura also had some far-out performance vehicles.
The truck aftermarket still is growing rapidly. Just as many companies as ever have products to make your pickup or sport-utility anything you want. The truckmakers also have plenty of new offerings: bigger trucks and smaller trucks, something for everyone.
No one at aftermarket week in Las Vegas was talking about a recession. There might be a slight softening of the market, but it won't be anything to worry about. In fact, it might give people a chance to catch their breath.
Aftermarket week in Las Vegas is a great place to get ideas about products and services that are already available for the next generation of vehicles and to see trends developing. If you make 'em or sell 'em, you ought to go to aftermarket week in Vegas. Just remember to bring your most comfortable shoes.