If you don't go to the SEMA show in Las Vegas every year, the growth and changes can be overwhelming.
My last trip to SEMA was four years ago. It was six weeks after Sept. 11 and coincidentally the week that Ford Motor Co. fired CEO Jacques Nasser.
Tuesday was the first official day of this year's show, and some things were clear.
The show was bigger and classier.
The guys checking credentials are wearing tuxedos. And there's a lot less female skin on display, though there are some Toyota girls walking around with costumes that look like they were sprayed on.
The halls are filled with exhibits. The parking lot in front of the halls is covered with exhibits. Even the dead space between the halls was used by Honda and Mopar.
I don't care about square-footage numbers - my dogs were barking by the time they started shutting off the lights at 5 p.m.
There were plenty of celebrities, too. Race team owner and retired driver Michael Andretti signed posters at the XM Radio booth, and there was a long line of guys waiting to have Carmen Electra -- the former Mrs. Dennis Rodman -- sign pictures at some stand or another.
This is no longer a pipe and curtain trade show. But it isn't exactly an international auto show, either.
The cast of characters is pure Americana, with a lot more tattoos than you see in Geneva, for example. Mixed in with the media are buyers, distributors and speed shop owners, which makes for a more festive atmosphere.
Here are some candid observations from the first day of SEMA 2005:
Though in fairness, at Honda's media reception that evening the food seemed plentiful. But if Honda's factories were as painfully loud as the band, OSHA would shut them down and their workers would organize in a heartbeat.
Best first-timer news conference award goes to Volkswagen. At its first SEMA show, VW showed two cool cars and then had an open bar with a selection of hot hors d'oeuvres and sweets.
(Note to SEMA organizers: One of the clever things about international auto shows is that reporters don't need to waste time standing in line just to buy a couple of Nathan's hot dogs to scarf down for lunch. Food is more than a Pavlovian reward for enduring drivel at a press conference. It is part of the process.)
What a concept.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at