LAS VEGAS — The 39th annual Specialty Equipment Market Assn. trade show, a 3-ring circus of automotive excess spread across 1 million sq. ft. of convention floor space here, saw a record number of 14 auto makers display their wares.
Volkswagen AG became the first European auto maker to present at SEMA, while tuner car luminary Honda Motor Co. Ltd., used its SEMA-headlining status to reintroduce itself to the sport compact car scene with its all-new '06 Civic Si.
VW, struggling to overcome its U.S. image as a purveyor of bland transportation, used its inaugural SEMA presentation to unveil a trio of AWD R GT concepts: a Jetta, Passat and Touareg. All three are powered by twin-turbocharged versions of VW's 3.2L V-6 and produce more than 500 hp.
Derided as bland and out of touch with vehicle customizers, Honda's previous generation Civic fell out of favor with tuners.
Honda is betting heavily that the fresh and contemporary design of the new 197-hp car, along with its debut at the popular show, will revive its image with the enthusiasts responsible for much of the brand's success in North America.
Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled its new '06 V-6-powered RAV-4 cross/utility vehicle and '06 Yaris subcompact, both of which go on sale in the U.S. next year.
The new, larger and more powerful RAV-4 moves up market from its humble beginnings as a “cute-ute,” while the 3-door Yaris, which has been widely successful in Europe and Asia in previous generations, replaces Toyota's dismal Echo small car in the U.S.
Japan's No.1 auto maker, also was well represented by a barrage of wild Scion-brand tuner vehicles, along with several other customs, including a Toyota Racing Development-tuned Tacoma pickup and a customized '07 FJ Cruiser CUV.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. used SEMA to launch its line of Ralliart performance accessories in North America, previously only available in Japan.
General Motors Corp., also attempting to upright its lackluster U.S. performance, at SEMA focused on small and midsize cars, rather than trucks and SUVs.
The No.1 auto maker's novelties included a 325-hp Club Racer version of the Pontiac Solstice; a 2-door, 270-hp HHR Concept CUV; and a pair of trick Cobalt SS coupes. GM also presented a 270-hp Pontiac G6 Performance Coupe and the new '06 Cadillac STS-V and XLR-V performance cars.