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Auto Show:  2012 Sema Auto Show

2012 SEMA Show Preview

author photo by Colin Ryan October 2012
  • The aftermarket industry makes its yearly descent upon Vegas.
  • Thousands of new products make their debut.
  • Carmakers join in the fun.

Even cars like to play dress-up around Halloween, if the 2012 SEMA Show is anything to go by. The Specialty Equipment Market Association's annual bash usually takes place in late October/early November in suitably scary Las Vegas.

Wild paint jobs, crazy-low car suspensions, crazy-high truck suspensions, intimidating power and outlandish aerodynamic appendages are just part of the SEMA scene. From fuel-sipping subcompacts to the latest Ferrari, if there's some new way of making it faster, grippier or maybe just growlier, it will be displayed at SEMA.

About 100,000 visitors will squeeze past souped-up vehicles, souping up accessories and each other, and not one of them will be a "civilian." This show is for the trade only: tuners, buyers, vendors and the like. This is a bit of a shame, because many cars and trucks seen here make a lot of traditional auto shows appear rather humdrum. For example, last year there was a Chevrolet Camaro made to look like a life-size Hot Wheels model, with the brightest, shiniest metallic green paint this side of a plastic track.

There is a serious aspect, though. The aftermarket industry is worth something like $30 billion a year, and the SEMA show can also be a barometer of cars' popularity and whether a new model has grabbed the modifiers' imagination, which in turn could catch on with auto buyers in general. The Fiat 500 fared well in 2011. But let's take a look at what might ignite in 2012.


It's been a veritable Camaro-fest for the past few years, but Chevrolet is also bringing its Spark, Sonic and Cruze econo-rides to SEMA 2012. And this year sees the General going more upscale. SEMA is an ideal place to demonstrate what can be done with--and maybe lend a little more sporting credibility to--the 2013 Cadillac ATS, an upcoming rival to the BMW 3 Series.

Amid the usual SEMA sea of testosterone, Ford is showing a 2013 Mustang GT customized by a team of women. No one should be surprised that it only took two months to complete, yet it still looks classy. Ford also has go-even-faster versions of its go-faster 2013 Focus ST, plus transformed 2013 Fusion sedans, 2013 Escapes and 2013 Explorers

Massive 42-inch tires and a 5.7-liter V8 help the Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper make short work of dunes, while the new 2013 SRT Viper sports car booms into Vegas with a lowered suspension and carbon fiber accessories. The SEMA show's 2013 Chrysler 300 "luxury" sedan foregoes performance in favor of elegance.


The 2013 Scion FR-S is already a critical and commercial hit. And now three tuning houses have each taken a stock example, spent a budget of $15,000 per car and completed their projects within three months in a bid to win $10,000. The winner will be announced at SEMA, where all the entries are on show.

's parent company Toyota is doing a similar promotion with its Dream Build Challenge, where famous names from American motorsport tweak versions of the Prius, Sequoia, Camry and Tundra. The winner gets $50,000 donated to a favorite charity.

Racing versions of the 2013 Acura ILX are set to debut in Sin City, along with some similar track-worthy iterations of the 2013 Hyundai Veloster.

The 2012 SEMA Show takes place from October 30 to November 2, and will be there to report on the highlights and the low riders.

What it means to you: SEMA takes cars and trucks to a fun place, and reminds us why we have an irrational love of machines.

See more of our SEMA coverage

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 SEMA Show Preview - Autotrader