SEMA gets most of the attention during Aftermarket Week in Las Vegas because it's big, glitzy and all about toys. The accessories you see displayed at SEMA in and around the Las Vegas Convention Center are all about fun, customization, design, performance and being cool.
But down the Strip at the Sands Convention Center, the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo -- or AAPEX -- is more about the parts and components you need to keep vehicles running.
AAPEX isn't just about grease guns, wheel bearings and spark plugs. But it is a more traditional trade show with stands that can be a lot less exciting than those at SEMA, but more important.
And at AAPEX you see many companies and brands that also are big in original equipment, including Delphi, Visteon, ArvinMeritor and many others, even Federal-Mogul.
Here's the lesson from this year's AAPEX: Any supplier exec who thinks his company can knuckle under and sell to automakers below cost then make it up in the aftermarket needs to rethink the business model.
A big part of the aftermarket already is gone.
While the traditional aftermarket suppliers were perched on the second level at the Sands, the lobby level was given over to overseas parts makers arranged by country.
It was low budget and not fancy. The whole lobby-level hall looked like an old-fashioned pipe-and-curtain trade show. But the reps from overseas were eager, and their products -- many were commodities, some weren't -- were priced to sell.
Just walking through the hall, it was impossible to tell how many of the parts on sale were ripped off from traditional suppliers.
But I overheard one supplier official grumbling about phony logos on a competitor's products that could lead to a lawsuit. And another told me that one of his company's proprietary designs was being hawked at AAPEX by a Chinese company that stole the design.
Once upon a time, you went to SEMA and AAPEX with designers, engineers and sales staffers. From now on, you'd better take your intellectual property rights lawyer, too.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at