Some interesting Trends in the Auto Industry – SEMA 2018

Hey we just returned from the 2018 annual SEMA show (Specialty Equipment Market Association) in Las Vegas, Oct 30-Nov 2 2018. If you are looking to customize your new Ford F100, Jeep Wrangler or want to throw $100K at a restomod project with aftermarket/specialty stuff, this is the place to come to find what’s latest & greatest. Believe it or not 150K people attend this weeklong spectacle, second only to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) @ 250K people… HUGE doesn’t really describe it. Take a look at their website here. “The SEMA Show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center”. Sema is all about add-on accessories for your ride.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a sister show called AAPEX  – Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo – which occurs at the same time a mile or two away at the Sands Convention Center. Here you’ll find every vendor known to man who makes aftermarket parts like replacement alternators and LED headlamps.

So we attended a SEMA ‘future trends’ seminar, hosted the SEMA Director of Market Research. Here are some industry stats:

The Specialty aftermarket market segment is worth $44Billion (healthy growth at 4% annually) in the US. How do people buy parts? 38% of these sales are done online, while 62% are purchased instore (these numbers are not changing). Pickup upgrades are the largest sector of the specialty-equipment industry (29% of total). Following behind are SUVs & CUVs (crossovers) at 22%, and mid range cars (15%). The Jeep Wrangler is the most popular accessorized vehicle.

Some Trends:

-We will continue to see more & more smaller turbo-ized engines (4 cyl, lower dispacement engines, & <3 liters), as this is a good equation for better fuel economy & performance for smaller cars.

-Speaking of smaller cars, the Crossover market (smaller 4wd vehicles build on car platforms) is a very popular, ever-growing segment. Most crossover ads are about getting outdoors and being active.

-It’s true that teenagers aren’t getting driver’s licenses at the same rate as 10 or 15 years ago (it’s costly for teenage drivers – I KNOW ALL ABOUT IT!@!!$%@), but by their 20’s this population is buying cars as they need transportation for jobs & families. A third of 16-24 year old segment is personalizing their ride.

Probably the two most talked-about industry developments are:

-Electric: by 2025 18% of vehicles will be electric. Impediments to market penetration are charging station availability and consumer habits (people don’t like having to wait for an hour or more to charge the battery).

-Autonomous (self-driving) cars: way over hyped, too many manufacturers, very low consumer adoption for now. $80 billion has been invested in R&D in this space to date! Auto ownership is a big human hurdle to mass adoption of autonomous autos (interestingly currently only .5% of all trips are made via Lyft n Uber).

You can download the entire market research report from the sema website: