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SEMA Show Opens in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The temple of horsepower reopens here this week, and once again the faithful will be allowed inside to worship the automobile.

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show usually draws more than 100,000 people during its four-day run, which starts Tuesday.

The show will take up about about one million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center and will include booths from the many businesses that supply auto enthusiasts with parts, accessories and gadgets.

But some attendees are expecting a more somber gathering.

Brian Gluckman, a spokesman for AutoTrader publications, said, “With attendance well below past years and lots of empty booth space, this year’s program promises a diversion from the typical extravagance and exuberance of the show.”

A SEMA spokesman declined to give specific figures on the numbers of exhibitors, but noted there would be “extra space” for those who attend.

“It remains the largest small-business gathering in the U.S.,” said Peter MacGillivray, a SEMA vice president.

But the industry is experiencing a transition from its image of purveyors of horsepower to one that is a bit more green.

Mr. MacGillivray noted the “green” vehicles display, which made its debut last year, was bigger this year. “We’re announcing a ‘Green Rod’ this year, and there will also be several notable hot rod hybrids,” he added.

Indeed, one of the show’s attractions is a customized 1934 Ford coupe with a 400-horsepower EcoBoost V-6 engine, with twin turbochargers. The project, built by Detroit Street Rods, had backing from the Ford Motor Company.

“EcoBoost technology shows that there is a viable replacement for displacement,” said Dan Kapp, director of Ford Powertrain Research and Advanced Engineering. “As consumers’ demand for fuel efficiency continues to grow, and our commitment to delivering best-in-class fuel economy remains steadfast, it’s important to show that performance does not need to suffer as a result.”

Mr. Kapp will also be part of a panel discussion on “Driving Green” technology during the show.

Ford also sees in the show a marketing opportunity for its customers, its dealers and by extension itself, to sell add-ons for Ford vehicles after they leave the factory. To that end, Ford is designated as the show’s “featured marque,” which some have taken as a sponsorship of the event. Both Ford and SEMA stopped short, however, of calling it that.

“Ford’s participation is much more than a sponsorship,” said Christopher Kersting, SEMA’s president and chief executive. “We will be collaborating with them on several branding and technology programs.”

“It’s an opportunity to showcase the flexibility of our vehicles for personalization and accessorization and ultimately drive sales,” said John Felice, Ford’s general marketing manager.

That doesn’t mean the show will be a paean to Fords. Many customized versions of new models will also be introduced by Scion, Lexus, Nissan, Suzuki, Kia, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Though the show is closed to the public, so many vehicles are being shown outside the convention center, and at casinos, restaurants, malls and hotels around town, there is plenty of eye candy for everyone.


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