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$3 Billion Strong: The growth of SEMAs Import Auto Salon reflects the sport compact tuner market

Time:2018-02-13 16:31Turbochargers information Click:

Billion im Strong growth SEMAs

SEMA’s International Auto Salon started out seven years ago in a couple of buildings at the L.A. County Fairplex that, at other times of the year, housed chickens and ducks.

This year the trade show for the sport compact tuner crowd took over the south hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first show saw 121 exhibitors and 15 cars on 70,000 square feet of fowl floorspace. This year’s show saw 400 cars, more than 200 exhibitors and 347,000 of the same square feet that support the LA auto show.

And while business in the sport compact tuner segment that is IAS’s specialty was "just" $295 million in that first year in 1997, in 2004 SEMA claims it’s over $3 billion. (Exactly how much of that $3 billion is made up of knock-off wheels from Taiwan is not broken out in SEMA’s statistics, but still…)

This year the focus was on the Focus, as well as the 350Z and the three Scions, all of which got more cool stuff to make them go faster and look more stylin’. But just about anything small and compact will be doing better in 2004 than it did in 2003.


A wing kit from the Ford Focus catalog  

Let’s start with the Focus. Ford launched a new, 35-page catalog of parts for the Focus to go with its newfound emphasis on the sport compact market. The theme of the motorsports movement is the kind-of-dopey-sounding, "Revolt. Build. Rise." We never were fans of those one-word sentences advertising copywriters love, but there is a lot of new Focii stuff here (or, rather, "A. Lot. Of. Stuff. Here."), from WRC-style wings to an entire Kugel Komponents rear-drive V8 conversion. There is even a three-stage Cosworth kit the details of which will be revealed at SEMA IAS East May 21-23 in Atlantic City. The catalog also has Wings West wings, APC taillights, SVT trim pieces, RS interior trim pieces and a whole line of Ford Racing suspension, engine and exhaust improvements for the Focus, all in one catalog. As the Focus enthusiast website said, "Maybe there is a God after all." See .


Ford Focus RS  

The most popular part progenitor at IAS was the Nissan 350Z and its fraternal twin the Infiniti G35, which makes sense because G35 and 350Z owners tend to have more money than, say, your typical Scion pilot. The "What’s New" display cases on the middle of the floor were mostly Z parts, with a few Scion parts thrown in. On the floor there were Z charger kits from Vortech, Greddy and HKS that had been on the market a while already. Once you engineer a 350Z supercharger, it’s not too far a step to go to an Infiniti G35 kit.

Vortech’s Z turbo was out last year but this year’s show was the debut of the Vortech supercharger kit for the almost-identical Infiniti G35. It takes that model from 280 to 400 hp for $5495. Next out from Vortech is a supercharger for the Honda S2000, due out in a month.

GReddy’s new twin-turbo with intercooler for the G35 is similar to its previously released Z turbo kit except for some changes to the intercooler. It sells for $6495.

HKS’ 350Z supercharger kit will be out in May, adding 75 hp at the wheels for "around $6000." An HKS turbo kit for the Acura RSX is also due in May. There’s an HKS Subaru WRX turbo out now, too. HKS also says that it is tuning parts for U.S. roads now, instead of just shipping Japan-market parts to us here. The new Hipermax RS suspension for the Z, for instance, is made specifically for American roads. See .

RO_JA Motorsports partnered with Rays Engineering to produce a set of wheels for the 350Z and the G35. RO_JA frontman RJ DeVera even had a reality TV film crew following him around, adding to the intrigue of the guy we first profiled back in 1996.

NISMO, going from toe-hold to foothold in the U.S., debuted pieces for the Frontier and Xterra, including springs and shocks, and a cold air intake. Look at .


5 Axis Models wide-body Scion xB (top) and the Scion tC tuner. (tC Photo by Steve Bitanga of importculture.com)  

TRD will have a supercharger for the Scion tC in November that will boost output to a whopping (for Scion) 200 hp.

At the Scion booth on the other end of the hall was the very first tuner tC made by Earl Mangune. The car, featuring an engine turbocharged by Turbonetics, Inc., was nicely understated; you wouldn’t necessarily get pulled over every day. But next to the tC was our vote for best in show – the 5 Axis Models wide-body xB with turntable power slide-out DJ rack in the back in case the driver gets in the mood to stop and spin. 5 Axis Models chopped it four inches, widened it another four and lowered the bottom two and a half inches and painted it a nice, wild orange. We want one, just as we wanted last years best-in-show xB, the stretch limo version of that tiny Japanese box car.


MazdaSpeed RX8  

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