Drivers Wanted? Not at SEMA…

Viva Las Vegas

The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) annual industry dog and pony show has come and gone for another year. I usually sat from the sidelines and watched as others attend the show, but this year I set out for Las Vegas to witness the event first hand and came away with some interesting insight into this whole aftermarket industry, the SEMA show itself and the general trends going on in the marketplace right now.

Overall things are still thriving in the aftermarket performance scene with the bulk of the display cars being Japanese imports, albeit now shifted more towards the Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution models instead of Honda Civics and Acura Integras. Toyota’s new upstart Scion models were also scattered around in various booths as well thanks to Scion’s program to get cars into tuners’ hands, even delivered in primer so they can be repainted to taste. The muscle car market is also thriving thanks to heavy interest in old American iron and support for American V8s remains very strong with superchargers, cam kits and more everywhere you looked. General Motors went all out with a host of interesting performance and cosmetically enhanced cars. For the full scoop on the SEMA show, check out our feature story HERE

On the Volkswagen side of things, H&R, Bilstein, B&M, FK and KW were all in attendance displaying new wares like H&R’s new 28mm rear sway bar, KW’s Inox suspension line or Bilstein’s new PSS9 applications. Overall though, there was a distinct lack of VW and Audi products on display. In fact, outside of Mini and a handful of Porsches, there weren’t that many European cars to be seen. Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that every major manufacturer had a booth at the show except the German manufacturers – BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, VW and Audi were nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only European manufacturers at the show are those under Ford’s Premier Auto Group (Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover). What was even more ironic was that staid, conservative Volvo had some of the best new European products on display with an S60R and V70R, showcasing all-new aftermarket equipment by new Volvo-tuner Evolve.

Which brings me to my main complaint… The German manufacturers and Volkswagen and Audi in particular need to be at SEMA. Why? Because they can’t afford not to be there. EVERY major manufacturer is displaying at the show except the German heavyweights. Like it or not, the aftermarket industry is alive and well and depends on various manufacturers cars to display their wares. Companies such as Porsche, BMW and Volkswagen have always had traditionally strong followings in the aftermarket (and still do) but awareness of these brands at shows like SEMA is dwindling rapidly. Take a look at Mazda or Hyundai and you’ll see not only their own accessories cars on display, but “idea” cars built up by magazines and aftermarket tuners to show potential throngs of aftermarket companies and more important, consumers what can be done with their products. For VW it is an absolute no-brainer… the performance aftermarket and youth market they attract have been the envy of many manufacturers for years, yet VW is letting this slip through their fingers. Just walk through Mazda’s booth with upbeat music videos and great looking product scattered around and you get a feel instantly that they know what the market and consumers want. Volkswagen has been played up as “hip”, yet at one of the hippest places to be seen in the automotive industry they are glaringly absent.

So our challenge to Volkswagen and Audi of America: get involved in SEMA next year and display at the show. To prove that we aren’t just all talk around here, we’ll even rise to the challenge along with our readers and advertisers and help Volkswagen plan it out. VW and Audi’s accessories lineup has increased ten fold in the last three years thanks to the three hard working staffmembers in the accessories group in Auburn Hills that must carry the flag for the whole company. They can’t do it alone.

SEMA is more than accessories, it is about product and about possibilities. For that reason Volkswagen must treat SEMA like any other auto show they attend and add it to the schedule next year. The difference is in the message and that’s how we can help Volkswagen showcase what their cars are capable of. Heck, we’ll even build up our upcoming R32 for display in their booth at SEMA next year along with loads of other great possibilities courtesy of our readers.

Don’t make us put our car in someone else’s booth Volkswagen. Show us, and the American car-buying enthusiast what you are really made of.

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