Ahh, SEMA. For the editorial staff at TOV, the name conjures up images of vast halls filled with cars, thumping music, flashing lights and scantily clad models.
After a late Monday arrival, we made our way to the show bright and early on Tuesday morning to attend the Honda press conference. Dan Bonawitz, Vice President of Corporate Planning for Honda North America led off the conference with the introduction of the Acura RL A-spec. While you can read more about this elsewhere on TOV, our past experience with A-spec packages on Acura vehicles leads us to believe that the RL will take a noticeable step up in handling with the new setup. Unfortunately, the visual improvements to the RL are virtually unnoticeable. While the RL shape is attractive to begin with, we'd like to see a little more aggression in the A-spec aero package.
After the RL intro, Stephan Papadakis introduced his new S2000 drift car, a turbo-charged, AEM sponsored tire burner that Papadakis will campaign in 2005. Will Papadakis be able to balance drag racing and drifting in his career? Will he be able to compete with the Japanese drift gods? We'll have to wait and see, but whatever we think of drifting (I don't care much for it), it is popular and it's good to see Honda participating.
Finally, Honda introduced their latest 'Civic Nation' commercial and then revealed the name for the SUT - Ridgeline. The general consensus on the name was that, among the choices circulating (Ridgeline, Rockline and Havasu), Ridgeline was probably the best fit.
As we moved onto the general show floor some general trends began to surface. First, we always try to get a feel for what cars are setting the trends, usually indicated by the numbers of specific models in exhibitor booths. Last year we saw plenty of Civic Si's, Subaru WRX's and an a strong influx of Nissan 350Z's. In our limited tour on Tuesday, we saw very few WRX's and Si's. The 350Z and Infiniti G35 still made a reasonably strong showing but the cars of choice seemed to be the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum siblings. No, you didn't read that incorrectly, big RWD sedans and wagons stole the floor show on the first day of the convention. What does this mean for the aftermarket? We're not too sure, but I don't think it means a whole lot as these cars are neither inexpensive, nor likely to be purchased by the younger, trend setting modder set.
The other trend we noticed was metallic. Not just silver paint, but polished metal, chrome and chrome paint. Several cars exhibited new chrome look paints, while several more showcased polished bare metal. Heck, even some of the models were clad in outfits reminiscent of 60's sci-fi fantasies.
From a parts perspective, our limited look on Tuesday didn't reveal any performance products to be particularly revolutionary or amazing - especially in the Honda market. Perhaps we're getting a bit jaded, but we'll look more Wednesday. We did take a bit of a detour through the electronics area and saw some really cool items there, but I'm a horsepower freak and I want to see some cool parts!!
Peruse a few of our Day One photos and come back tomorrow for more updates.