The 2019 SEMA Show has been and gone and we’ve got the key takeaways from the show that saw the Jeep Gladiator dominate custom truck concepts, and Aussie brands win for innovative products.
GRANT HANNAN & LINDA BLOFFWITCH: It’s been a full-on automotive aftermarket fashion week in Las Vegas, where the SEMA show takes over the Las Vegas Convention Centre for four days. Some would say it’s the kind of show which has everything from mild to wild and the plain outrageous, but hey, that’s pretty much Vegas all over.
When there are more than 2500 exhibitors, and over 2000-odd new products launched this year, it was impossible to see it all. So we needed a game plan. We found once we got past the glitz and glamour of vehicles screaming “look at me” (and there were plenty), we began to uncover the real essence of SEMA.
It soon became obvious; there was a strong emphasis on replacement front bumper bars. Here, manufacturers designed concept bars that incorporated a variety of items; winch cradles were popular as was aftermarket lighting (particularly LED light bars and low-level driving lights).
Exhibitors included numerous aftermarket lighting manufacturers, and there were plenty of vehicles that would light up like Christmas trees. If we didn’t know otherwise, you could easily have thought they’re afraid of the dark over here. Amongst the regular bumper bar and roof rack lights, there was a trend for cowl-mounted ones. These would sit in front of the A-pillar slightly angled, to light up the edges of the road.
When it comes to fashion, there’s nothing bigger in the world of automotive than wheels. You know the saying; wheels do the deals. And we’re talking big wheels here; an average of 40-inch plus, with umpteen styles, types and finishes. For the concept cars, it was all about the bling. The trend was for highly polished wheels accentuated with just a smidge of colour. Generally, this colour was used to coordinate and match with suspension colour.
All-purpose and imitation two-tone bead lockers are still popular, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a polished alloy, chrome plating or super high gloss lacquers. It’s just about the mirror finish. Not sure I’d want the job of cleaning them.
In the off-road and performance 4X4 arena, there were many exhibitors showcasing suspensions. The big American-style pickups which have been around for years are still very popular, as are their monster truck-sized lift kits. But it was Jeep that dominated the stands, and the Jeep Gladiator in particular. While it’s relatively new on the scene and set to hit our shores in 2020, it outnumbered any other vehicle at the show. The number of aftermarket parts available now is phenomenal, and from where we sit, it doesn’t look like this trend will be slowing down any time soon.
Australia was well-represented with numerous businesses showcasing their products to the strong crowd. This year’s contingent included a few first-time businesses, alongside some stalwarts of the industry. Accolades went to ARB for its newly-released Treads (traction aid boards), while MSA received an award for its new Jeep towing mirrors. Western Australian business Rhinohide was another recognised for its innovative and unique product.
There’s little doubt Overlanding is a buzz word which is becoming an ever-increasingly popular trend around the world. And show organisers have recognised this and answered the Overlanding call by adding a new Overlanding Experience pavilion for the first time this year. Not to be confused with off-roading, this pavilion was dedicated to vehicles and products which depict the land-based and mobile living style of touring. A range of seminars was also on offer for visitors looking to build Overlanding into their businesses. While this section didn’t have all the glitz and glamour of the concept trucks, it provided a good opportunity for exhibitors to showcase how aftermarket accessories were being used and applied while out touring.
SEMA continues to grow year after year and is recognised throughout the world as an event to showcase all things automotive in the aftermarket sector. It’s size alone provides excellent opportunities for businesses to showcase and launch products on a world stage. The very fact SEMA organisers encourage exhibitors to design, make and display wild concept vehicles to show off their skills results in this show being one of the most exciting aftermarket trade shows going around. Naturally, many of the vehicles may never make it into production as we know it. Still, versions and adaptations of these concepts are what makes and drives innovation for new and exciting aftermarket products. And for that, we’re eternally grateful.