As an avid “gearhead” I could not miss the opportunity to attend the 50th Annual SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas, along with the concurrent AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo) conference. Representing XL Hybrids, I had many great conversations and meetings with our current and potential suppliers, and with automotive industry experts. While SEMA is largely a consumer show, many companies with technology offerings for commercial fleet customers – the types of customers XL Hybrids targets with our commercial vehicle electrification solutions – were on display.
Walking the aisles, I observed that within the ever-expanding lineup of automotive technologies there are several significant commonalities with the strategic path XL Hybrids is taking:
– Rise of the connected vehicle
– Downsizing of engines
– Increasing sophistication of vehicle branding efforts
– Ability to install a product on both new and existing vehicles, and
– Global distribution and installation networks of automotive companies
Telematics devices are becoming increasingly popular as OEM options as well as aftermarket additions to existing vehicles. At SEMA, telematics devices and services were everywhere! These devices allow an individual or company to remotely monitor many metrics including driver behavior, maintenance requirements, and GPS tracking.
At XL Hybrids, we include our proprietary telematics platform – XL Link™ – on every XL3® hybrid-electric conversion. XL Link tracks vehicle efficiency and the health of our hybrid system by monitoring things like fuel use, vehicle speed, idling, brake force, and acceleration rate. Our service staff remotely tracks all of our customers’ vehicles and their hybrid components using XL Link to help ensure fleet vehicle uptime.
With the increasingly strict fuel economy regulations governing automotive OEMs, this year’s SEMA show featured several new smaller engines with refined forced induction systems. Turbo and/or supercharged engines by Ford, GM, and Mopar were all on display. The reason why so many vehicles are now being offered with smaller engines is that fuel efficiency and vehicle performance no longer need to be mutually exclusive. A smaller engine can pack a performance punch while also being more fuel-efficient than larger predecessors. Commercial fleets can do something similar by downsizing their engines without sacrificing drivability. Any base engine can be optioned by our fleet customers when converting a commercial vehicle with our XL3 system. Why? Because our system adds 200+ ft. lbs. of torque at the driveline, while also offers fuel economy improvements and CO2 and NOx reductions.
Solutions that Upfit New or Retrofit Existing Vehicles
As vehicles become more complex and computerized, a growing number of automotive companies are realizing the benefits of having a product that is compatible with both older vehicles and brand new ones. For example, many of the brake suppliers showcased their products on both brand new vehicles with the newest safety technology and also on ‘old school’ hot rods that may not have even been factory-equipped with disc brakes. This creates a broad appeal in the market and encourages the adoption of new technology. XL Hybrids also offers its XL3 Hybrid Conversions on both existing and brand new vehicles, allowing a wider range of customers the opportunity to save fuel and cut CO2 and NOx emissions.
Worldwide Installation and Distribution Efforts
As a first-time SEMA attendee I was amazed by the number of international attendees. I saw exhibitor badges from Ireland, Italy, France, Australia, and Japan, to name a few. It was fascinating to witness emerging technologies and be on the forefront of trends from these areas. From a supply chain perspective, it was insightful to learn about the complex distribution methods and installation efforts that are required to sell a product worldwide.
XL Hybrids is embracing this challenge right now by establishing a strong installation and service network across the United States and Canada. When we are ready to embark on international distribution (today we are getting inbound product interest from countries like China, the Czech Republic, Panama and India among others) I know that SEMA will continue to be a fantastic resource to gather information from other global automotive companies and suppliers.
While SEMA is not among the typical trade show events that XL Hybrids attends, it offered an insightful view into the worldwide automotive industry. It’s a fantastic platform for networking, as well as seeing cutting edge technologies be recognized by industry experts from all over the world.
Eddie is XL Hybrids’ supply chain manager.