Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: SEMA, Newspress
After COVID-19 forced last year’s SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show to go digital, the massive automotive aftermarket industry trade show was back as an in-person event for 2021. Held from 2 to 5 November, exhibitor and visitor attendance of over 100,000 sounds good, but was down compared to previous years. Despite this, there was still an abundance of aftermarket products on show. And plenty of 4x4 eye-candy, too!
Recent SEMA Shows have been heavy with customised versions of popular new models, like the Jeep Gladiator, Toyota Supra and Ford Mustang. This year, there were a lot of accessorised new Broncos to be seen at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, complemented by modified and customised versions of the original Bronco. But above that, SEMA 2021 was all about “electric”.
Electric vehicles of all types were in abundance this year, both within a dedicated ‘SEMA Electrified’ area and throughout the general indoor and outdoor display space. Four-wheel drives didn't escape the electric treatment, either.
From Trophy Trucks to all-new dedicated EV off-road racers, as well as classic off-roaders, there was barely a genre that escaped the EV touch at SEMA this year. Unsurprisingly, the reborn Hummer EV – now a model family under the GMC banner - was a major presence, too.
Along with GM, both Ford and Stellantis (nee Chrysler), are deep into the EV game now, so they also had a heavy electric presence at SEMA this year, presenting existing, prototype and future EV technologies.
Ford unveiled a Shelby concept version of their Mach-E GT electric SUV and the ‘Eluminator’ concept built off a 1978 F-100 pickup, while Chrysler had their ‘4xe’ electric Jeep Wrangler and the ‘Magneto’ electric concept that was unveiled at this year’s Easter Jeep Safari.
Still Love for Petrol. . . and Diesel
It wasn’t all volts and kilowatt hours, though. There was still plenty of internal combustion engine power on show at SEMA, with ICE Jeeps and RAM trucks, along with conventionally-engined Rangers, F-Series and Broncos from Ford, while GM had the Chevrolet ‘Beast’ concept as their major headturner.
Looking like something out of a sci-fi movie mixed with a Baja race truck, the Beast is based on a Silverado pickup chassis, shortened to approximate Colorado size, with power from a 650hp (485kW) Chevrolet Performance LT4 supercharged crate engine, matched to a 10-speed automatic. While using some Silverado parts, most of the Beast’s open-air cabin is custom, too, with Recaro race seats for four, tube half-doors and spare tyre mounts in the rear.
Toyota creates a Monster
Toyota made an impression this year, too, with the racing-themed ‘Desert Chase’ concept version of their Tundra TRD large pickup that some in the US are tipping will go into production against the RAM TRX 1500 and Ford F-150 Raptor. Toyota also had a fully-equipped camper trailer made from the tub of a Tacoma “midsize” pickup, as well as an overlanding concept based on a Tacoma dual cab.
The star of the show for Toyota, though, was the ‘Tacozilla,’ a version of the Tacoma TRD Sport extra cab pickup fitted with a custom camper body and finished with graphics inspired by similar conversions offered on Toyota pickups in the 1970s. Inside, the Tacozilla featured a shower/toilet, hot water, sink, cooking and meal prep area, couch seating, dining table, sleeping for two, a pass-through to the cabin and plenty of storage
Go Big, Go Bold
Away from the main manufacturer displays, there was all the usual SEMA Show custom car craziness, like oversized bodykits, huge suspension lifts and jumbo wheel and tyre combos.
Some of the wackier creations this year included a six-door Jeep Wrangler conversion, a Gladiator with dual rear axles, a rare ‘80s-era AMC Eagle with modern Jeep Wrangler running gear and a LandCruiser FJ45 ‘Bandeirante’ dual cab (which was a factory build out of Brazil) matched with a custom-built off-road trailer.
Broncos aplenty included race-spec versions and others with all manner of accessories added.
Not everything was highly polished, sparkling and new, either. There were more than a few patina builds, rat rods and unrestored survivors spread around the display space, too.
Back in Business
Reflecting the growth in the 4x4 market in North America, the ‘Overland Experience’ section of SEMA that made its debut in 2019 was back this year and featured plenty of camping rigs ready for adventure and showcasing a diverse array of new products.
While new car sales of all types took a hit in the USA under COVID-19, new truck sales increased fractionally last year and sales of aftermarket parts for trucks remained relatively healthy as well. According to a recent SEMA Market Report, pickups make up the largest share of specialty equipment spending, with US$14.3 billion in sales in 2020 accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the total market. Additionally, the latest SEMA Accessory Opportunity Report states that eight of the top ten vehicles most likely to be accessorised in the US are either pickups, SUVs or Jeeps, with year-on-year sales of these accessories expected to grow in 2021.
This was reflected in the positive experience of most stallholders and visitors related to this section of the aftermarket at SEMA this year, according to SEMA president and CEO, Chris Kersting.
“The industry was clearly excited to be back in-person at the SEMA Show, both to capture business opportunities and to network and celebrate the world’s greatest collection of innovation on wheels,” Kersting said.
“Our industry was waiting to reconnect and the SEMA Show was a welcome homecoming after nearly two years apart.”
The 2022 SEMA Show will be held from 1-4 November, 2022.