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SEMA Show Keeps America’s Love Affair with the Automobile Alive

Aftermarket business recovering after big recession hit.

by on Nov.10, 2014

Open wide: Toyota's "Sleeper Camry."

It looks like an ordinary, 2015 Toyota Camry, but lift the hood and you’re in for quite a surprise.

Actually, you have to raise the entire body of the “Sleeper Camry” sedan, which Toyota quietly transformed into an 850-horsepower drag racer. It’s just one of the wild, weird and wacky concept vehicles unveiled at the 2014 Specialty Equipment Marketers Association annual aftermarket convention, an event known to fans around the world as the SEMA Show.

We Love Cars!

There’s been plenty written about the supposed death of the American love affair with the automobile. You’d have a hard time proving it at the Las Vegas convention center, which hosts what has become Sin City’s second-largest annual event, this year expected to draw as many as 140,000 attendees.

American Motorists Big on Customization

SEMA Show wraps up – but aftermarket hits record sales.

by on Nov.11, 2013

If there's something you can do with a vehicle, you'll likely find the parts and accessories at SEMA.

Whether you were looking for a high-performance crate engine, off-road tires or something as goofy as “eyelashes” to attach to attach to your car’s headlights, there was seemingly something for everyone wandering through the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center during the course of the last week.

It was all part of what has come to be known as the SEMA Show, the annual gathering of the Specialty Equipment Marketers Association. The largest trade group for automotive aftermarket suppliers says it’s on track to report close to $32 billion in sales this year, reflected by the record turnout of more than 2,500 vendors and many as 150,000 visitors to this year’s event.

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“Anything you can put on a car or fix a car with, they have it at the SEMA Show,” gaped Chris Perry, the general manager of Chevrolet.

The largest of the General Motors divisions staked out a major presence of its own at SEMA, with dozens of production models and concept vehicles – ranging from a high-performance version of the Spark EV to two special edition Corvettes – on display.


Mopar Bridging the Gap Between Factory and Aftermarket

New Mopar ’14 coming to SEMA Show in November.

by on Oct.14, 2013

Mopar will reveal 20 customized models at the SEMA Show next month -- including the new limited-edition Mopar '14 model.

The “other” Chrysler Group brand will be making a big splash when the annual SEMA Show rolls into Las Vegas next month, Mopar planning to reveal 20 different customized versions of various Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Fiat and SRT models – and perhaps a unique vehicle of its own, hints MOPAR president Pietro Gorlier.

For years operating in the shadows as little more than the supplier of replacement wipers and wheels, Mopar has begun to emerge as a distinct brand – and profit center — of its own since Chrysler was taken over by Fiat following the U.S. maker’s 2009 bankruptcy.  And observers say that’s no surprise. The automotive aftermarket has become big business, generating at least $30 billion in sales annually, according to the Special Equipment Marketers Association which sponsors the annual Las Vegas show.

Aftermarket News!

Mopar isn’t abandoning its traditional business. If anything, it has expanded its operations as the provider of replacement parts for the combined Chrysler-Fiat alliance. But it is also positioning itself as a powerhouse rival to traditional aftermarket vendors, whether producing parts of its own or sourcing them from outside vendors.


Chevrolet Has Big Plans for its Small Cars at SEMA

Spark, Sonic and Cruze concepts get performance makeovers.

by on Oct.22, 2012

The Chevy Cruze Upscale is one of an assortment of small car concepts the maker will unveil at SEMA.

For the first time in years, Chevrolet’s small cars are getting some traction and General Motors’s largest brand hopes to gain even more attention with an assortment of new concept cars based on its Spark, Sonic and Cruze models that will make their debut at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas later this week.

“With Chevy’s new small cars attracting young buyers with a taste for customization, Spark, Sonic and Cruze are the perfect canvasses to express their personalities,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “The content, colors and performance of each concept is being evaluated for possible production as Chevrolet continues to seek new ways to give customers more choices.”

Your Automotive Source!

The small-car concept vehicles demonstrate a range of performance-based styling expressions, including the first application of Chevrolet’s Z-Spec treatment for Spark with family traits, such as the mesh grille inserts and graphic accents. The Z-Spec concept demonstrates a cohesive design with a family of factory-engineered accessories and the best of the aftermarket under a single theme.


Chevrolet Reveals SEMA Small Car Pair

Chevy downsizes for annual aftermarket show.

by on Oct.25, 2011

One of several Chevrolet Sonic Z-Spec concepts that will be revealed at the upcoming SEMA Show.

The annual aftermarket extravaganza commonly known as the SEMA Show is typically an orgy of muscle, makers like Chevrolet and Ford revealing tricked-out Camaros and Mustangs making astronomical amounts of horsepower and torque.

Not so this year.  True, you’ll still find plenty of hot rods and muscle cars on display but there’s a surprising emphasis on smaller, more mundane products designed to show they aren’t the stone ponies of decades past.  So, Chevrolet will be showing up at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a pair of downsized offerings that could cast a much more favorable light on the new Sonic and Cruze models.

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“The heritage of Chevrolet cars like the Corvette and Camaro is being expressed in smaller packages for the next generation,” said Chris Perry, vice president, global marketing and strategy for Chevrolet. “The Sonic and Cruze concepts demonstrate that performance comes in all shapes, sizes and displacements at Chevrolet.”


Auto Parts Retailers Show Sales Growth

Consumers make repairs to keep aging vehicles on road longer.

by on Aug.10, 2010

Are repairs less expensive than replacing a vehicle? In the long run, makers hope they are.

Auto parts retailers are gaining from consumers attempting to keep their aging vehicles on the road as the Great Recession drags on. Auto parts retailers experienced a seven percent growth in dollar sales for year-to-date April 2010 when compared with a year ago. Much of the volume growth came through the commercial channel, as repair shop bays filled up with aging vehicles.

Automakers are hoping for resurgence in new vehicle sales from aging vehicles, although a  new study indicates this may be a false assumption.

These findings are from the NPD Group, whose Aftermarket Industry Monitor tracks item-level sales at more than 18,000 U.S. auto parts store.

NPD says that the sales growth is driven by applications parts, which increased ten percent in dollar volume for the January through April 2010 time period versus a year-ago. The dollar gains came from real unit volume growth reflecting an actual increase in consumer transactions for replacement parts.


Chinese ATVs and Motorcycles Flout Emissions law

U.S. EPA may impose fines on four of China’s biggest makers.

by on Jun.30, 2010

This is the first time EPA has voided certificates of conformity for off-road or all-terrain vehicles.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today withdrew its approval of the import and sale of 200,000 gas-powered off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles from China.

The agency alleges that tailpipe emissions information was either incomplete or falsified entirely. It is just the latest action that casts doubt on the quality or safety of Chinese products or the integrity of the firms that produce them.

This is the first time EPA has voided certificates of conformity for off-road or all-terrain vehicles. Moreover, it is only the second time the agency has done so for any type of vehicle.

EPA says it is considering an enforcement action under the Clean Air Act, which could lead to “significant financial penalties” against the businesses that manufactured or imported these types of recreational vehicles. The amount is still under consideration, an EPA official told me.

The revocation comes as the Obama Administration is desperately trying to prevent the U.S. Congress from introducing bills on reforming the Chinese Yuan or Renminbi (RMB), long an undervalued currency, which allows cheep Chinese goods to displace U.S. made ones. In an election year, and given the ongoing Great Recession, such bills – if introduced – will find widespread non-partisan support, and complicate the U.S.’s relationship with China, which holds large amounts of U.S. Treasury debt.

Back in May, EPA fined Pep Boys $5 million for importing non-compliant motorcycles, recreational vehicles and generators manufactured in China. (See Pep Boys Fined $5 Million for Clean Air Violations) More than 35 different Chinese manufacturers were building illegal vehicles and engines in that case.

Foreign Intrigue!

In the latest case of the Chinese flouting U.S. law, EPA issued certificates in 2006 and 2007 to the U.S. counterparts of four of China’s largest manufacturers including Hensim USA (City of Industry, Calif.), Loncin USA (Hayward, Calif.), Peace Industry Group (Norcross, Ga.), and Seaseng (Pomona, Calif.).


Pep Boys Fined $5 Million for Clean Air Violations

Largest importation case in history has more than 35 different Chinese manufacturers building illegal vehicles and engines.

by on May.11, 2010

Pep Boys and Baja imported at least 241,000 illegal vehicles and engines.

Manny, Moe & Jack – the Pep Boys – have agreed to take corrective measures and pay $5 million in civil penalties to settle claims that it violated the Clean Air Act.

The auto discount chain that “Does Everything for Less” was importing and selling motorcycles, recreational vehicles and generators manufactured in China that do not comply with environmental requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department said.

Baja, Inc., which supplied the non-compliant vehicles to Pep Boys, is also settling with the U.S.

Equipment imported into the United States that does not meet U.S. pollution control rules is illegal, and bad for human health and the environment. In addition, it hurts U.S. companies that comply with U.S. law.

Critics say that this just the latest example of how illegal Chinese goods continue to come into the country due to the ineffectiveness and lax enforcement by U.S. Government agencies.

“Importers of foreign made vehicles and engines must comply with the same Clean Air Act requirements that apply to those selling domestic products, and this settlement demonstrates that we will take strong action to ensure that importers comply with their obligations,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.


Consumer Guide to Fair Auto Repair Just Released

It’s claimed that car owners can save hundreds of dollars.

by on Apr.15, 2010

Electronic diagnostic tools are expensive and specialized, adding to repair costs. says that American Consumers are overpaying by more than $20 Billion on repairs. It is promoting an online auto repair service, which it claims can save you money.

The service walks car owners through the actions they need to take to make sure they get a fair price, and to help ensure that they are not paying for unnecessary repairs,

By using tips in’s Consumer Guide to Fair Auto Repair, the cost savings could be even greater than the nearly 14% achieved in an study.

A quick look at the site reveals mostly generic repair advice, and sparse listings of auto repair shops, which includes many car dealerships. It might be different in you locale.’s Consumer Guide to Fair Auto Repair uses four steps to ensure a fair repair experience at the repair shop:

  • Diagnose Problem Diagnose the problem before you go-with online diagnostics question-tree tools and how-to guides to perform a tangible, physical diagnosis (determine the issue or find questions to ask so you are not hit with unnecessary repairs).
  • Fair Auto Repair Estimate Tell the shop you will be using an online website such as to get industry standard auto repair labor hours and labor rates, as well as true part costs–and that you want your replacement parts back (this is a little insurance upfront to make sure you are not paying for unnecessary repairs). After they provide an estimate, counter with the fair price estimate to make sure the quote is within those guidelines.
  • Compare Auto Repair Shops Before authorizing work, use an online Shop Finder – at a site like where you can compare the shops’ average hourly labor rates, reviews etc. – to locate other area shops and call them to get several quotes over the phone.
  • Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate – once you are armed with an online fair price estimate, and quotes from other area shops, ask for a lower price.


Chevy Small Block Steal

Mouse motor fans - $2,900 with chrome covers. Such a deal...

by on Mar.23, 2010

Some assembly required...

GM Performance Parts has just added a new 350 cubic- inch engine with an aluminum intake manifold and a chrome “dress-up” kit to the its best-selling small-block package.

The legendary engine is built with all-new parts, and has an MSRP of $2,900.

The package includes a “high-flow” intake manifold, chrome valve covers, chrome air cleaner, chrome timing chain cover, chrome breather cap, along with the necessary hardware, gaskets and installation instructions – some assembly required.

GMPP recommends using a Holley 670-cfm carburetor (GMPP number 19170092, and not included.) to obtain the rated power levels of 290 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 332 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,750 rpm.

Yes, boys and girls before electronic ignition, fuel injection and now sometimes sticking electronic pedals linked to a computer with its own mind, the accelerator was connected  – mechanically – to a carburetor, which used the Venturi effect to feed the engine. How quant. Moreover, how reliable.

Souped Up!

Inside this ‘merican V8, there are four-bolt-main bearings and aluminum pistons that deliver an 8.5:1 compression ratio for pump gas compatibility in these days of questionable fuel. (Lots of room here for improvement, hot rodders.) The GMPP part number 19244450.   (more…)