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SEMA 2004:
Vegas Shines High Beams On The Future
By Val A. Parker
Contributing Writer

(November 7, 2004)

SEMA attracts plenty of Hummers and Bentleys

Kia's Drive Thru booth was a hit at the show

Crowds fawn over the 2005 Ford Mustang

2005 Bentley Continental GT at the SEMA show

Go to
2004 SEMA Show
Photo Gallery
Official Web site:
Since when is 100,000 people descending on Las Vegas in November news? When they're not there to gamble, is when.

Ok, so the wives gamble, but that's a story for one of those womens' magazines with "how often" and "how many" on the cover. The men are at SEMA to reinforce their role in America by looking at (and hopefully buying) after-market bits to stick on their customers' cars, trucks, SUVs, boats and RVs.

Yes, it's a trade show, and not open to the public. So why do John and Jane Q. Public give a squirt of WD-40 about it?

SEMA is important. No, not because it says so in the press kit. SEMA is important for several reasons. One: unless you're perfectly happy driving your 1985 K Car or think Saturns are "sporty", then you need to know that today's SEMA exhibitors are the leaking-edge of tomorrow's cars. SEMA 2004 showcased 1,100 "all-new" (that's car talk for something hasn't just had its' sheet metal re-bent) products -- some of which are inevitably going to end up in your dealer showrooms over the next couple of years, so heads-up.

Look at it this way. For a global manufacturer like Ford, Toyota or Skoda to decide to put an aerodynamic shark fin on the roof of their new global cross-over vehicle, well, that would take a bunch of meetings, about ten gallons of coffee, people would have to sign things, they'd have to test it to see if it would still fit in your garage -- all in all, quite a lot of work.

But if you're a go-to guy with an industrial unit in Jackson, Mississippi, and they taught you welding in prison, heck, you could crank out a few thousand units of your road-kill scooper design with hardly any meetings at all.

That's what SEMA is all about -- American know-how and can-do spirit (and a whole bunch of hyphens) and doing what we do best: taking something perfectly functional and good and improving it.

So what up with 2004? Well, a whole lot of improvement is going on. First we have the all-new 40th anniversary Ford Mustang. To be frank, the last time your humble correspondent looked twice at a Mustang, Jill St. John was in the passenger seat and Sean Connery was shaken and stirred. But the new pony car has head-turning style. A few nods to the classic '65 and 70's fastback models and a wink to several generations of Aston Martins give us a car that looks like it's moving while standing still. I'd bet my last few lint-covered poker chips that more than a few meetings were involved. The look alone will sell some cars. That Ford has actually improved the engine, transmission, handling, and the interior quality is to their credit, and apparently they are being rewarded. Orders are strong and I have heard of some going for more than full pop. Is there anything that makes a dealer happier? (Short of telling you that your car just went out of warranty).

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