It is easy to get distracted by the thousands of vehicle-related displays spanning four halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Assn. show.

But away from the show floor and all its glitz, SEMA held a seminar focusing on the latest vehicle trends. Here are some of them:

  1. Improved Transmissions

    More vehicles are equipped with continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in which the rotational speeds of two shafts can be varied to provide an infinite number of possible ratios. The result: better power distribution, which is one way to offset the high price of gasoline.

  2. Alternative and Flex Fuels: It's no surprise that alternative fuels, diesel and flex-fuel initiatives are the wave of the future. Watch for bio-diesel and aftermarket suppliers retrofitting newer vehicles. A mechanic from Kansas did that and achieved a fuel efficiency of 100 mpg.

  3. Safety and Passive Restraints: Among the advances is a plethora of airbags (including those for knee protection and ones that deploy in rollover accidents), particularly in luxury cars.

  4. Interior Lighting: Mood lighting in the color of your choice and LED trim lights makes a vehicle owner want to put in a swag lamp and beads and chill out.

  5. Body Style and Glass: You feel like you're in a fish bowl for all the glass found in many cars today. But the views are great.

  6. Seating: New are sensors to determine the weight of vehicle occupants to gauge firmness and fit for custom seating.

  7. Cockpit Integration: Aftermarket suppliers have hopped on this bandwagon over the last few years with dash kits and new appliqu├ęs. It harkens back to the days of the '70s Firebird Trans Am with the psychedelic metallic patterns on the dash. Cool dude.

  8. Styling Trends: Chrome is returning as ornamentation in the form of hood-mounted heat extractors, grilles and analog clocks. They're great for complementing my spinner wheels.

  9. Technology: Everything that's going to give vehicle owners more power, comfort, safety, individuality and improved fuel economy will keep the SEMA show humming.

Dave Skrobot is a fixed-operations trainer. He is at skroby@telus.net