More Aftermarket Eye Candy at This Year's North American International Auto Show - aftermarketNews

More Aftermarket Eye Candy at This Year’s North American International Auto Show

Although there's no shortage of muscle on the main floor at this year's North American International Auto Show -- the 850-horsepower Chrysler ME412 concept is only the beginning -- there's also a subterranean performance theme that's been missing from previous shows. Once the take-it-or-leave-it realm of marginal players like Daewoo and stillborns like the revival Cunningham sports car, Cobo Center's downstairs Michigan Hall exhibit area is studded this year with an intriguing array of production vehicles enhanced by aftermarket bolt-on goodies: designer wheels, low-profile tires, oversize brakes, high-performance shock absorbers and more.

by Tony Swan
Detroit Free Press Special Writer

DETROIT — Hyundai is displaying four cars that have been modified from their original factory condition, a practice called tuning. One Tiburon, was given a skull and flames, while another, has custom panels. Such customization, typically done on smaller Japanese cars, has grown to a multibillion-dollar industry.

Although there’s no shortage of muscle on the main floor at this year’s North American International Auto Show — the 850-horsepower Chrysler ME412 concept is only the beginning — there’s also a subterranean performance theme that’s been missing from previous shows.

Literally subterranean. Once the take-it-or-leave-it realm of marginal players like Daewoo and stillborns like the revival Cunningham sports car, Cobo Center’s downstairs Michigan Hall exhibit area is studded this year with an intriguing array of production vehicles enhanced by aftermarket bolt-on goodies: designer wheels, low-profile tires, oversize brakes, high-performance shock absorbers and more.

The upgrades aren’t confined to go-faster hardware.

Interior treatments include heavily bolstered sport seats clad in exotic leather and suede, racing-style steering wheels and, of course, audio systems with enough decibels to be heard in Toledo.

These embellishments fall under the general heading of tuner cars, and there are many of them, including vehicles from Acura, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Scion and Subaru.

There are huge vehicles like the Tecstar/Wheel to Wheel Hummer H2 and a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda fabricated by automotive customizer Time Machines with a 650-horsepower, supercharged Dodge Viper V10 engine crammed under its hood.

There’s also a very tasty Chevy SSR custom job in the ASC Inc. display.

Called the Chevy SO-CAL the orange-and-cream roadster pickup looks like a Creamsicle on wheels.

Lowered and louvered, with a supercharged 6.0-liter GM truck V8 under its hood, the SO-CAL, along with several companion vehicles, was conceived to signal Southgate-based ASC’s change from the old sunroof-convertible company founded by the late Heinz Prechter to American Specialty Cars, more of a full-spectrum speed and custom operation.

And speaking of full service, check the Mopar Speedshop display a few steps away. This Chrysler subsidiary offers all sorts of goodies for Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth cars, from dress-up packages to engine hard parts.

For all that, the bulk of the displays, in terms of vehicles, are devoted to small Asian cars.

And why are these cars part of the Detroit show rather than the Autorama hot rod show (coming Feb. 27-29 at Cobo)?

It’s a recognition of the explosive growth in aftermarket add-ons for small front-drive cars with Asian nameplates, a trend that began in southern California and is steadily spreading across the United States.

And as far as Autorama is concerned, there is almost no common ground between the new age tuners and traditional hot-rodders.

Traditionalists tend to think in terms of 1932 Fords and small-block Chevy V8s.

The raw material of the new age tuners is late model cars like Honda Civics and Acura Integras, with four-cylinder engines. They don’t want to hear about small-block V8s, and the Little Deuce Coupe is yesterday’s news.

Think “The Fast and the Furious,” and you have a quick (albeit extreme) snapshot of the machinery.

This trend is important, because these new age hot-rodders, most of them in their 20s, spend a lot of money. They represent an increasing chunk of the total tuner market, which is now more than $27 billion annually, said Carl Sheffer, spokesman SEMA.

SEMA is a vast alliance of companies dealing in automotive aftermarket accessories, ranging from racing and performance hardware to mobile electronics.

Sheffer reports that SEMA has tracked steady growth in the dollar volume of its field. “It’s been very strong,” he says, “between seven and 10 percent annually.”

“The growth in what we call the sport compact market has been phenomenal. “We started tracking it in 1995. At that time it was small, only about $295,000 annually. Now it’s about $3 billion, and still growing.”

That’s why major manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers are scrambling to get into the act. And major manufacturers include those based in the Detroit area. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group are intent on getting a slice of this rapidly expanding pie.

Citing the rapid growth in the new tuner market, auto show cochairman Chuck Fortinberry said he “thought it would be interesting to show off the best of the best in this exciting and very dynamic industry.”

TONY SWAN is executive editor of Car and Driver magazine. He was Free Press auto critic from 1993 to 2000 and remains a regular contributor.

Copyright 2004 Detroit Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

_______________________________________

Click here to view the rest of today’s headlines.

You May Also Like

Maryland Teamsters Call for Passage of HB 1447

The legislation would protect middle-class jobs and motorist safety, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Maryland Teamsters Call for Passage of HB 1447

Members of Teamsters Locals 570, 639, and 922 testified before the Maryland House of Delegates to call for the passage of House Bill 1447 (HB 1447), legislation that would require a human operator in large commercial vehicles. Similar legislation has been introduced in California, Iowa, Indiana, and New York this year.

Beyond the safety aspect, the legislation would protect middle-class jobs, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

$78B Pro-Business Tax Bill Passes House, Awaits Senate

The bill aims to reinstate tax incentives for R&D and small business investments, along with other measures.

MANN+HUMMEL NA Aftermarket Shows Right to Repair Support

Representatives from MANN+HUMMEL’s North American aftermarket brands recently visited Capitol Hill to express their support for H.R. 906.

MEMA Issues Statement on Tax Relief for Working Families Act

This measure contains the restoration of one year deductibility of research and development expenses, a key legislative priority for the association.

SEMA Urges Members to Support Tax Relief Bill

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 benefits specialty automotive aftermarket businesses, according to SEMA.

SEMA Action Network

Other Posts

ASA Endorses Bipartisan Tax Framework

The Automotive Service Association says the legislation is beneficial for independent automotive repair businesses.

Industry Partners Urge Congress to Pass R&D Deductibility Fix

“Congress must restore this tax provision to enhance U.S. competitiveness, job creation and innovation as soon as possible,” said Ann Wilson, MEMA’s executive vice president of government affairs.

Legislators Challenge Vehicle Data Access ‘Double Standard’

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez joined other legislators in sending a letter to NHTSA about proposed guidance for implementing the Massachusetts Right to Repair law.

House Passes Bill to Stop EPA Emissions Mandate

The U.S. House passed the “Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act” (H.R. 4468) with bipartisan support.

Opposition Grows for California’s Mandate Banning New Gas-Powered Vehicle Sales