Fewer cars, fewer vendors, fewer attendees. The economy is down; spending in the industry is down. So why is SEMA better than ever?
Everyone predicted that this year’s SEMA would be a horrific bust. Economic worries and gas prices were top concerns and attendance definitely reflects it. The SEMA organization and the Las Vegas Convention Center have done a fantastic job of making it look just as big, but veterans can still tell. The aisles are wider and some how there seems to be an abundance of tables and chairs surrounding the food vendors. This year it is actually possible to make your way up and down aisles without feeling you are constantly in a rugby scrum and it is possible to actually sit down and relax while eating your thirty-seven dollar hot dog and coke.
So one would think that this added elbow room equates to an emptier show. The truth is, SEMA 2008 is more concentrated, more focused. There certainly aren’t as many vendors or products at the show, but the slow down seems to have filtered out some of the crap. Yes, there are still giant blinged out chrome wheels made in countries you have never heard of, but far fewer.
The vendors seem to appreciate the smaller turn-out as well. Historically, SEMA has been an excuse for anyone remotely involved in the auto industry to take a week long vacation in Vegas. This lead to thousands of people bombarding vendors with stupid questions and time wasting conversations. The attendees that are at the show this year are there to do business, and a good portion of them are on a much tighter time table, so there is no screwing around. Get in, get it done, get to the bar.
So what’s good at the show. As always, VW has a big presence. VW North America teamed up with companies like APR and Rockford Fosgate to build cars that stand up against anything the aftermarket brought to the show. A gorgeous Passat CC was unveiled at VW’s press conference that is really turning heads at the show. Lower suspension, twenty inch wheels, custom interior and exterior make it a truly world class performance sedan. APR provided the power mods while the entire project was brought together in house. Along with the CC was a concept for a Jetta TDI Cup Edition, that we think is 99% certain for production. Basically a TDI GLI with the Cup body kit, this thing will fly off lots. A Tiguan equipped with a European Market body kit and several other tweaks also really shows that VW can give the people what they want.
Some other trends: smart cars, some really half-baked and others very well done. GTRs are everywhere, and not just the Nissan version, but the three ubiquitous letters can be seen on everything from Corvettes to cell phone cases. Surprisingly, there are several Meyer’s Manx type vehicles around the show. I could go on for hours, look for more in-depth coverage over the next several days.