For those who don’t know, the SEMA Show is an annual trade show and exposition in Las Vegas for the paint, body and aftermarket automotive industry. Picture every wheel, tire, air filter, exhaust and all the parts in between in attendance and on display. Most manufacturers use highly customized demonstration vehicles in their booths to display their wares. The size, attendance and energy far surpassed my expectations. I’ve worked in or around the automotive industry for most of my professional life and hold cars and trucks as one of my top personal hobbies.
Without further ado, here are my top five impressions from SEMA 2017:
1. Trucks, trucks, and more trucks
Americans still love trucks. It should be no surprise that both Ford and Chevy are celebrating century anniversaries selling theirs. Plus, a pickup is still the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Lifted, lowered, polished or dirty. Highly polished or fully wrapped in custom paint, graphics and extreme levels of personalization. Customized for the boulevard or modified for the mountain. Americans (present company included) love trucks.
2. I feel the need, the need for…
Speed rules. Since the return of soldiers coming back from World War II, young men and women have wanted their cars to go faster, handle better and maybe even win a race. Today is no different. While the cars are more complicated, aftermarket companies have found unique and efficient ways to increase horsepower and your adrenaline.
3. Vehicle electrification is here
At SEMA, I observed that not only is vehicle electrification here, but the aftermarket is working on how to customize it by driver. Several aftermarket companies were displaying electrification solutions to both increase horsepower, and/or reduce fuel use. One company was using a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) system mounted closer to the gasoline engine to increase torque. BMW had its PHEV 7 Series (retails for $100,000) on display using an electrical-assist strategy similar to what we’ve seen from Ford, GM and others. Other builders (outside the U.S.), had one-off, custom EV cars and SUVs on display. Several companies are also working exclusively on personalizing Tesla platforms.
4. ’Coming to You Live’ via social media
At SEMA, the next generation of social media and consumer interaction is at every turn. Finding ways to reach your audience or new customers, can be challenging. The next-gen group of marketers at SEMA is live-streaming, tweeting, texting, blogging and Instagramming the entire show. While this is a trade-only event, it allows a unique experience for the general public to get a glimpse of new products and automotive trends, as well as some next-level, custom cars. Interviews with major players in the industry were conducted simply and elegantly through a smartphone. With the help of social media, my friends and family were able to experience the show vicariously through my camera lens.
5. A look ahead at what’s next for automotive
There’s no denying this conference is huge, and that just proves that the automotive industry will continue to adapt, innovate and transform. I walked more than 20 miles over three days and saw companies like XL Hybrids who are truly trying to help customers, day in and day out. As we think about what’s next for the industry, we’ll continue to see changing tech trends and most importantly, a commitment to helping drivers achieve sustainable transportation.
After all of the huge displays, custom cars and price tags that rival a nice used home, I continue to be impressed about what we are doing here at XL Hybrids. We offer a simple, smart and sustainable solution that truly helps fleets reduce operating costs and reach sustainability goals. While sometimes I wish our demo vehicles had 24 inch chrome wheels and custom paint jobs, I’m happy knowing our team is solving real problems for our customers every day.
See you next year!