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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.

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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.

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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.


Experimental Engine Could Deliver Econobox Mileage and Sports Car Performance

Mahle tests new downsized engine technology.

by on Jul.23, 2013

Mahle's modified VW is being used to test the new downsized engine technology.

A German manufacturer best known for its heavy duty truck engine components could re-write the rules when it comes to passenger car powertrains.  The company is the Mahle Group, and it’s presently showing off a “demonstration vehicle” with an experimental   three-cylinder 1.2-liter single turbocharged gasoline engine that promises to meet very tough emission regulations while maintaining performance in mid-sized cars.

Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Mahle entered the U.S. market some 40 years ago supplying aluminum pistons for heavy duty truck engines.  Mahle last month opened its American headquarters and R & D facility in Farmington Hills, Michigan, in Detroit’s western suburbs.

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The German company’s powertrain subsidiary is barnstorming its experimental car, dubbed a “downsizing demonstration vehicle,” to U.S. vehicle manufacturers with the objective of gaining research—not engine-production—contracts.  But longer-term its design could provide the industry a significant alternative to conventional engine designs.


Delphi Back on the S&P List

Back in good graces after decade of turmoil.

by on Dec.24, 2012

Seven years after a bankruptcy filing launched what became a sweeping reorganization – and the longest corporate run through the Chapter 11 process in American business history — Delphi Automotive is final returning to the good graces of Wall Street.

The auto parts manufacturer Delphi Automotive (US:dlph) will replace Titanium Metals Corp. in the S&P 500 index, S&P Dow Jones Indices said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The change will take place after the close of trading on Dec. 21, when Precision Castparts Corp. is expected to complete its acquisition of Titanium Metals.

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Delphi, which assumed control of a substantial portion of General Motors’ in-house parts empire in 1999, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 as its struggled with an unwieldy cost structure built around traditional union contracts that had been undercut and rendered unsustainable by the rapid globalization of the auto industry.


Japanese Supplier Admits Price Fixing

Will pay $18 fine in Justice Dept. probe.

by on Oct.31, 2012

Supplier Tokai Rika likely wasn't delighted at the reality of being convicted for price-fixing.

A Japanese supplier has pled guilty in a probe by the U.S. Justice Department into price fixing in the auto industry, which continues to grow and has now snared nine different companies on three different regions of the world.

Nagoya, Japan-based Tokai Rika Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $17.7 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of heater control panels installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced.

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Tokai Rika has also agreed to plead guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice related to the investigation of the antitrust violation. The company’s American arm is based in Plymouth, and it also has units in Battle Creek and Jackson.


How to Spot Counterfeit Auto Parts

It takes vigilance – but you can protect yourself.

by on Oct.10, 2012

Are you sure those are real?

Federal safety regulators have revealed that 10s of thousands of American motorists may be driving around in vehicles equipped with counterfeit and likely defective airbags. While the problem may be particularly ironic – and potentially deadly – it’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issue of fake auto parts.

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, for one, estimates as much as $45 billion in parts business could be lost to counterfeits worldwide each year. While industry and government investigators have begun to crack down – General Motors aiding in the seizure of millions of dollars in fake parts each year – significantly more counterfeit auto components and parts still fall into consumers’ hands each year.

(Fake Chinese-made airbags putting American motorists at risk. Click Here for the full story.)

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Some of those parts may simply result in cosmetic issues, like an out-of-shape sheet metal panel or a lamp that doesn’t glow with the right color. Some, however, may be deadly, such as axles and airbags that don’t meet factory specifications.   And industry officials say many counterfeits fall in-between, such as fake filters that could cause an engine to fail.

So, how can you protect yourself from counterfeit car parts? Here are some helpful tips:


Auto Suppliers Souring on Toyota, Honda

But relationship with GM, Chrysler markedly improved.

by on May.14, 2012

A good relationship with suppliers can have a strong impact on how things go on the assembly plant floor.

Long the go-to customers for automotive partsmakers, Toyota and Honda have seen a sharp slide in the tenor of their relationship with industry suppliers, according to a new study, while things are markedly improving when it comes to General Motors and Chrysler.

The relationship between supplies and Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs, can have a significant impact on an automaker’s business, especially at a time when U.S. car sales are growing faster than anticipated and partsmakers are struggling to keep up with demand, cautioned John Henke, the president of Panning Perspectives, a suburban Detroit research firm.

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“There’s enough business suppliers don’t have to take nonsense” from a manufacturer, said Henke, who today released his 12th annual survey on supplier/OEM relations.


Mopar Muscles Up

Expanded line of Mopar parts – and Mopar-badged vehicles – on the way.

by on Aug.15, 2011

For the first time in its history, Dodge bolts the Mopar badge onto one of its production models.

Walking into his new office, shortly after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy two years ago, was “like walking onto the Titanic,” recalls Pietro Gorlier.  Though the automaker had survived its financial collapse, Chrysler’s parts and service division had been so badly stripped down, “We barely had the bodies to answer the phone.”

Things have changed in a hurry at Mopar, says Gorlier, who now heads the combined sales and service operations for Chrysler and its Italian partner, Fiat.  If anything, the subsidiary is rapidly rebuilding its global presence, entering new markets, adding new parts, offering new services – and, for the first time in its more than seven-decade history, planting a Mopar badge on the back of a Chrysler product.

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The first of these was the 2010 Dodge Challenger Mopar ‘10, a limited edition of the Dodge muscle car outfitted with unique stripes, black 20-inch wheels, black grille, a functional hood scoop, upgraded Super Track Pac suspension and hood pins.  A second Mopar model, the Dodge Charger Mopar ’11 was recently introduced.  As with the Mopar ’10, demand has well exceeded expectations and 1,500 will be built, a 50% bump from the originally-planned 1,000.

Yet another Mopar-badged performance car, likely to be dubbed the Mopar ’12, is under development for next year, Gorlier promises, though he’s keeping details under wraps for the time being.  And the range of offerings could grow even larger in the years ahead, he hints.


Investigation Brings Warning for TRW

Supplier facing trans-Atlantic probe.

by on Jul.13, 2011

TRW Automotive faces antitrust investigations in both the U.S. and European Union, it revealed.

Auto parts giant TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. is warning it could face financial penalties stemming from investigations into anti-competitive practices now underway by regulators in both the European Union and the United States.

The warning comes as EU and US regulators ramp up an investigation into anti-competitive practices that began in 2009, during the depths of the global automotive downturn.  Critics have contended that some major suppliers used the shake-out of weaker vendors to not just lock down more business but ensure they could drive up prices for raw materials, parts and more complex component systems.

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“Competition and antitrust law investigations often continue for several years and can result in significant penalties being imposed by the European authorities as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, as is evidenced by the significant fines the European Commission has imposed, in some cases, for violations in other sectors, TRW said in a statement this week.