The 39th annual Specialty Equipment Market Assn. trade show, a 3-ring circus of automotive excess spread out over 1 million sq.-ft. (92,900 sq.-m) at the Las Vegas Convention Center, saw its corporate image polished in 2005 as an unprecedented number of auto makers displayed their wares.
Originally conceived as ground zero for aftermarket innovations, the show's popularity with car companies has grown immensely as the auto industry's revenue focus shifts toward accessories and niche products.
For 2005, SEMA swept most of the traditional tight T-shirts and bikinis under the rug and donned semi-formal attire to welcome a record 14 OEM displays to the show, includingAG, the first European auto maker to present at SEMA, and tuner car luminary Motor Co. Ltd., which used its SEMA-headlining status to reintroduce itself to the sport compact car scene with its all-new '06 Civic Si.
Derided as bland and out of touch with vehicle customizers,'s previous-generation Civic fell flat with tuners. The auto maker is betting heavily that the fresh design of the new 197-hp Si will revive its image with enthusiasts.
Besides Honda, several other Japanese OEMs had significant product debuts.
Subaru of America Inc. unveiled its two latest performance sedans, the “tuner-ready” '06 Impreza WRX TR and the limited-edition '06 Legacy 2.5 GT spec.B.
For '06, the WRX features numerous mechanical tweaks and a new turbocharged 2.5L, 230-hp boxer engine. The spec.B adds a performance suspension, subtle aesthetic touches and a unique interior to the regular 250-hp Legacy GT.
Motor Corp. unveiled its new '06 RAV4 cross/utility vehicle, which moves up market from its humble beginnings as a “cute-ute.” The 3-door Yaris subcompact replaces Toyota's dismal Echo small car in the U.S. Both vehicles go on sale in the U.S. next year. Japan's No.1 auto maker also was well represented by a barrage of wild Scion tuner vehicles.
Motors Corp. hit the SEMA floor with six concepts, ranging from a 400-hp, all-wheel-drive version of the company's Eclipse coupe to a brazen off-road race truck based on the '06 Raider pickup. Mitsubishi also launched its line of Ralliart performance accessories.
VW, struggling to boost sales in the U.S., used its inaugural SEMA exhibit to unveil AWD R GT concepts for the Jetta, Passat and Touareg. All three are powered by twin-turbocharged versions of VW's 3.2L V-6 and produce more than 500 hp.
Corp., also attempting to bolster its lackluster U.S. image, focused on small and midsize cars, rather than bulky trucks and SUVs, at SEMA.
GM's novelties included a 325-hp Club Racer version of the Pontiac Solstice; a 2-door, 270-hp HHR Concept CUV; and a pair of trick Cobalt SS coupes. GM also presented a 270-hp Pontiac G6 Performance Coupe and the new '06 Cadillac STS-V and XLR-V performance cars.