Automakers' Show Of Force At Sema Every year, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show gets bigger and better. This past year, the trend accelerated, with most of the major automakers making their presence and their products a huge part of the show. Here's a quick look at the factory efforts at the world's premier aftermarket show.

General MotorsGM's SEMA exhibit included more than 40 production, concept, and as the marketing types like to say, "brand-directed," vehicles that The General created specially for the show. The display incorporated offerings targeted at a variety of consumers, but the sport trucks were center stage.

To get a read on how important the SEMA show is becoming to GM, it's interesting to note that the origin of three high-performance vehicles - available in dealer showrooms this year - can be traced to the 2002 SEMA show. But those were cars, so we won't bore you with the details. For SUV fans, GM debuted the VUE Red Line, a limited-production sport utility featuring a lowered body; sport-tuned suspension and steering; ground effects; and VUE's new 3.5L, 250hp V-6. Next up for GM Performance Division will be a Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS, an '06-model-year entry that will feature a Corvette-inspired V-8 engine, 20-inch wheels, and a lower suspension than the current production model. The production TrailBlazer SS will be based on the TrailBlazer SS concept originally shown at the 2002 SEMA show.

In addition to showcasing vehicles headed to production, GM uses the SEMA show as a test bed to gauge reaction from the experts in specialty vehicles. It's a process that helps move great ideas from the concept stage into the dealer's showroom as fast as possible.

For example, Chevrolet is developing a portfolio of Z71 trucks with an off-road suspension and high stance, such as the Silverado Crew Cab 4x4 and Extended Cab 4x2, as well as a TrailBlazer 4x4 and a two-wheel-drive version of Colorado. In addition, the company showed the Xtreme version of the Colorado. Chevy also displayed the SSR loaded with GM accessories.

GMC showcased an adventure series of professional off-road trucks, with capabilities for outdoor enthusiasts, each carrying the AT4 designation. The show vehicles are all-terrain variants of trucks: Yukon, outfitted for snow-skiing trips; Envoy XUV, accessorized for the water sports enthusiast; Sierra Crew Cab Short Box, designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind; and Canyon Crew Cab, outfitted for a kayaking expedition.

Cadillac went, of course, ultra upscale and ultra luxury with the Escalade ESV Executive Limousine and the SRX Black Diamond aimed at skiing and other active-lifestyle pursuits.

Buick highlighted its premium refinement and style to its growing truck portfolio with the Rendezvous and Rainier TW editions. Both concepts explore premium luxury appointments, such as new leathers, fabrics, colors, and finishes.

Hummer hit the show with the functionality and versatility of the new H2 SUT (sport utility truck) with the H2 SUT Dirt Sports concept. The Dirt Sports concept includes off-road dirt bike, camping, and hard-tonneau packages.

GM Accessories also caught SEMA fever, expanding its accessories offerings. In 2001, GM Accessories offered 150 products. That number grew to more than 500 in 2003, and will exceed 1,000 offerings by the end of 2004. At the 2003 SEMA show, GM Accessories had more than 100 parts on display, up from 21 in 2002.

GM Accessories' new offerings include a number of product lines that cross GM's car and truck portfolio, including all-new 20-inch wheels designed specifically for Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras, and 17- and 18-inch custom wheels that will be introduced this year for other GM cars and trucks. Customized interior trim kits, examples of interest to STM readers, were on display in the Chevy Colorado and TrailBlazer, and on Hummer products.

GM Accessories is also gauging market reaction to potential new products, including a modular pull-down sliding roof rack system and retractable side steps on the GMC Yukon and a new cargo rail system on the GMC Sierra.

Sport Truck Of The Year AwardNissan Titan team members and senior execs received our award for the Titan's winning effort in our Sport Truck of the Year competition, from editorial director and editor of Sport Truck magazine, Kevin Wilson. Shown are Jed Connelly, senior vice president, Nissan North America (right) and Fred Suckow, director of marketing, Nissan division, Nissan North America, (left). Fred was formerly the Titan marketing manager. Also on hand for our applause was Orth Hedrick, regional program manager, Pathfinder and Xterra, product planning, Nissan North America. Orth was Titan product planner for four years until recently promoted. We were fortunate as well to have Mark McNabb, vice president and general manager, Nissan division, Nissan North America; Simon Sproule, vice president, corporate communications, Nissan North America; and Kurt von Zumwalt, director of product communications, corporate communications, Nissan North America, at our presentation. Kudos once again to Nissan North American for building the best of the new trucks for 2004.

ToyotaThe big SEMA news from Toyota was its showing the all-new NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing engine and the announcement shortly before the show that it has reached agreements with Bang Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Innovative Motorsports Inc., and Waltrip Racing Inc. to campaign Toyota Tundra race trucks in the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Toyota announced its entry in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last February at the Chicago Auto Show. The Toyota Tundra race-truck body and chassis were submitted to NASCAR in July, and the first track test was conducted in August at Caraway Speedway. TRD U.S.A. has designed and developed the Tundra Racing V-8 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in its Costa Mesa, California, facility.

'03 Tundra Nascar Craftsman Truck EngineType: Toyota NASCAR V-8Displacement: 358 ciPower: 650 bhpInduction: Normally aspirated with carburetorBore: 4.185 inchesStroke: 3.250 inchesCompression Ratio: 12.0:1Engine Design: Toyota Racing Development, USAFuel: Racing gasolineFuel Pump: TRDExhaust: TRD

Ford Motor CompanyAs the official Manufacturer of Show for 2003, Ford unveiled the largest ever exhibit from an auto manufacturer - a 65,000-foot display space highlighted by 14 customized versions of its all-new '04 Ford F-150.

Ford also announced the continuation of its Ford/SEMA Technology Initiative, which provides SEMA members with advanced access to future-product information. The relationship includes giving computer-aided design (CAD) data to aid aftermarket companies in the design and engineering of customized parts well in advance of a new vehicle's introduction.

This successful information sharing already has allowed aftermarket companies to market and sell more than 100 items available on the '04 F-150, as well as begin the engineering work necessary to prepare for the launch of customized parts for the next-generation '05 Mustang this year.

Why is Ford (and the other manufacturers for that matter) so interested in the SEMA show? According to Phil Martens, Ford's group vice president of product creation, "U.S. consumers spend $27 billion annually in aftermarket parts and service, and more than a third of that is on light trucks." And because Ford is introducing the largest wave of new products in its history - from the new F-150 and this year's Mustang to several all-new products in new segments - Martens says Ford intends to have hot product news every year that SEMA members will love.

Mopar Announces Grand Opening Of Speedshops;Shows Dodge Ram High Output 1500 SportsideOne year after announcing the creation of a new retail concept, Speedshops, Chrysler Group's Mopar returned to the SEMA show to announce the official grand opening of Mopar Speedshops nationwide. After the announcement last year, according to a spokesman for Chrysler, hundreds of Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge dealerships inquired about becoming a Speedshop dealer. As a result of the positive response to the Speedshop concept, dealers will open 40 Mopar Speedshops across the country in the coming months. So check with your local dealer to see if it's going to be one of the first 40 Speedshops.

To punch up the Speedshop announcement, Dodge displayed a few hot rods, including this Dodge Ram High Output 1500 Sportside concept. The truck is a styling exercise from one of the automaker's OE suppliers. Our opinion: The concept has legs. It's got great street presence and Hemi power, making it a great-looking, low-slung, powerful pickup for the Dodge enthusiast, and satisfies that insatiable musclecar hunger

The Ram High Output 1500 Sportside is a regular cab with Stepside styling elements on the bed that highlight the truck's lowered stance and unique 22-inch Budnik wheels and Pirelli Scorpion-Zero 305/40ZR/22 tires. The Hemi is pumped up to 375 hp, thanks to the addition of a cold-air intake and free-flow dual exhaust system. Interior highlights include aggressive, race-inspired sports seats and an amplifier/subwoofer system that comes complete with satellite radio. No word on whether the company plans to bring it production.

Vegas Nationals Hello to all our sport truck fans

I wanted to update you on the Vegas Nationals, sponsored by Chevy Trucks, Gibson, Vortex, and Dealer's Sport Truck, so that you can start your planning now.

The State 2 State Cruise is happening on April 2, 2004. We will arrive in town about 6 p.m., have the destination party, concert, and our first glimpse of the vendors with space on the Fremont Street Experience.

The State 2 State Cruise will begin at Dealer's Sport Truck at 7:00 a.m., and we'll have new stops this time.

The show opens at 9:00 a.m. on April 3 and will run until midnight.

We have a bikini contest, show 'n' shine, raffle drawings, meet the editors, and a concert. Awards will be handed out at midnight after the Saturday evening concert.

We still have some details yet to be worked out, but I will continue to update you as it comes together. We're hoping to add a freestyle motocross exposition and some other entertainment activities.

For more information, have them e-mail me at vegasnationals@primedia.com, or they can call me at (714) 939 2580.

Thank youAmber PierceMarketing Coordinator, PrimediaTruck and American Motorcycle Groups

New Engines, New TechnologiesGM Powertrain used SEMA to show off new engines and variants, including two engines with Displacement on Demand (DOD) cylinder-deactivation technology for improved fuel economy. By 2008, GM will have 2 million vehicles with V-8 and V-6 engines with DOD. The new engines with this technology are:

The Gen IV small-block V-8, with higher performance and an array of technical advancements. The Vortec 5300 small-block with DOD debuts on V-8-equipped versions of the '05 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, GMC Envoy XUV, and Buick Rainier. An automotive application of the Gen IV small-block without DOD debuts later in the '05 Corvette.

The 3900 V-6, the latest in GM's longstanding family of 60-degree V-6 engines. The 3900 will be the first GM overhead valve engine to use variable valve timing, and it will be GM's first V-6 to use DOD. Its first application will be on the '05 Pontiac G6. d

GM is also showcasing a new Ecotec 2.4L variant, which brings both larger displacement and variable valve timing to the Ecotec modular family. The Ecotec 2.4L, with 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, will debut on the all-new '05 Chevrolet Cobalt.

Cammer Engines Showcase Power, Versatility, And PersonalityIn addition to hot, new F-150s and a tease of the next-generation Mustang, Ford is taking the wraps off three extreme-performance project vehicles powered by Ford Racing Performance Parts' (FRPP) all-new 5.0L Cammer V-8 crate engine. The new powerplant will be available through dealers or warehouse distributors beginning in 2004.

The '53 FR100 Panel Truck project is a logical successor to last year's FR100 pickup at SEMA. The FRPP '53 F-100 Panel Truck painted in UPS livery features an all-aluminum, overhead-cam, four-valve supercharged V-8, creating a full 5 liters of piston displacement; forged crankshaft with six-bolt mains and Manley "H-beam" connecting rods; and a specially reinforced block in the crankcase web areas for high-torque loads.

The Ranger Performance Concept is a Super Cab two-wheel-drive model with a 3.0L V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission, plus a Ford Racing supercharger good for 230 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A Ford Racing lowering kit, 13-inch Brembo brakes, high-performance air filter element, and FR500 18x9-inch aluminum wheels from the Mustang complete the package.

Diesel Drags?!Americans race everything from hermit crabs to lawn mowers. Now even diesel pickups have an organized way to compete in quarter-mile drag racing. Thanks to the Diesel Hot Rod Association (DHRA), an organization formed to promote and advance diesel-engine motorsports, bracket-style e.t. racing is now accessible for owners of Ford Powerstroke, Dodge Cummins, and GM Duramax light-duty diesel trucks. One recent diesel event was Weekend on the Edge 2003, held at Rocky Mountain Raceway near Salt Lake City and sponsored by diesel-performance specialist, Edge Products.

Race day attracted about 40 trucks and a number of diesel-powered cars to Rocky Mountain Raceway. Smoky burnouts, belching diesel smoke, and four-wheel-drive pickups making low-14-second passes characterized the action. (Running in 4WD helped the trucks hook up off the line and get maximum power to the ground.)

The racing highlight was Nathan Wright of Boise, Idaho, setting Street Diesel class records for both time and speed with a pass of 12.491 at 109.64 mph in his '01 Dodge. His Cummins is built with twin turbos, big injectors, and an Edge Comp-engine control module. Street Diesel is limited to street-legal SUVs and trucks containing engines as big as 450 ci, having a maximum of two commercially available power-adders (turbo, nitrous, propane), and running 12-second e.t.'s and slower. The DHRA Big-Dawg Modified Diesel class is for 10.00- to 11.99-second trucks, with tube frames and racing fuel acceptable.

DHRA racers smoke it out in regional competition throughout the country. Series champions in each DHRA regional division are awarded the prestigious Rudy trophy - a 6-inch-tall bust of Rudolph Diesel - at season's end. For more information, contact the Diesel Hot Rod Association at www.dhraonline.com or Edge Products at www.edgeproducts.com.

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