On opening day for SEMA 2009, to a first time attendee, you might think that you have died and gone to automotive accessory junkie heaven.
Lots of bling, logs of flashing lights, lots of hype, but for the veteran of many years, this year’s show is a step back at leat 12 to 15 years. The crowds are down, a number of empty booths in the main halls, in fact the actual floor space is greatly reduced with curtained off sections and large seating areas for the refreshment stand customers to sit down and relax while they enjoy their $8.00 hot dogs and $5.00 sodas.
Ford Motor Company is the presenting OEM for the 2009 SEMA Show, and as such sponsored the welcoming lunch and keynote speech. During that presentation, Mark Czubay pointed out that the Ford Mustang and F-150 trucks were the two most accessorized American vehicles of the day. To the crowd which was made up mostly of SEMA members who produce many of those items which can make each car a very unique custom, he encouraged them to start thinking about other Ford models, and while he didn’t mention them by name, the new Taurus SHO and Fiesta coupes were on display and the message was a little less than subtle.
After the first day, the highlights had all been hit by our OCW team, and for those of us use to catching a ton of worthless little souvenirs ranging
from notebooks to pens, toy cars to buttons and badges that blink out a sponsors name, we have come away with at most a piece of hard candy and a black and white one page brochure. We did find a number of old friends roaming the aisles, including at least two previous OCW editors, John Gunnell and Brad Bowling.
A number of major vendors including several high-line OEMs are missing, most notably Volkswagen, as well as a number of tire makers like Bridgestone and Michelin. While members of the press have come to expect foraging for our meals, this year one surprise was a box lunch provided by Ford Motor Company, along with a chance to drive, at speed the new Ford Fiesta.
While 2008 had been rather austere, opening on election day in 2008, 2009′s show appears to be running on an even tighter belt with no signs of the economy improving or recovery being right around the corner. Two items that really reflect the times, the guide to exhibitors, usually nearly an inch
thick, is about a quarter inch this year, plus the eye-candy, or booth babes, seem to be in short supply which I guess is just another example of this trickle-down, souring economy.
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