LAS VEGAS - The sheer size of Automotive Industry Aftermarket Week (AAIW) '99 - encompassing four trade organizations including the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) - is one indication of how profitable aftermarket accessories and performance parts sales can be to new-vehicle dealers.
It's huge, the biggest aftermarket trade-only exhibition in the world. It's also the second largest convention event in Las Vegas, a city of events.
Another sign of AAIW's significance is the participation of vehicle manu-facturers; particularly those based in Detroit. Like local auto shows, man-ufacturers use the annual Las Vegas gathering to unveil new products and concepts that someday may hit show-rooms.
Ford Motor Co. used the event to announce its "mass customization" program, which will allow customers to order accessories from the factory. The company says it is a new way to provide consumers with fresh and exciting products faster and more efficiently.
Mass customized vehicles will be limited-edition, specialty or theme vehicles based on current prod-uction models. Ford also is encouraging its dealers to push acc-essories at the local level.
Mass customization benefits the consumer, Ford says, because the special wheels, electronics and trim packages, are all covered under its standard warranty.
Plus the cost of these expensive add-ons can be included in the new-car financing package. The quality and reliability of the parts also is assured, Ford says, and the hassle of going to an aftermarket shop to buy the parts and have them installed is eliminated.
The attraction to Ford and its dealers, of course, is that these expensive, high-margin items can yield thousands of dollars in extra profit per car.
A set of custom wheels, for instance, easily can cost $2,000. Special "ground effects" plastic trim packages can cost more than that.
A special customized Ford F-150 SuperCrew will be available in January, and a Focus custom package is slated to be introduced next fall.
The SuperCrew will be equipped with an in-vehicle video entertainment system, a power sliding rear window, special running boards, a hard tonneau cover and other features.
The Focus will have a lower body "dress-up kit" with unique front and rear fascia pieces as well as lower rocker-side skirts painted gray, plus special painted aluminum wheels, modified grille, a special spoiler and other features.
Three different customized versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck recently went on sale at Ford dealerships.
In the first phase, customization of these trucks is being done at the prod-ucing plants - Kansas City, Ontario Truck and Norfolk assembly plants. Customization for future projects will be done at the producing assembly plants or at dedicated modification centers located near the plants.
Other "mass customization" launches are planned for the 2000 calendar year.
Ford also announced that it's Mercury Division this spring will offer a limited-production, high- performance 200-hp Cougar S for the 2000 model year.
For the "S," the standard Cougar 24-valve V-6 Duratec engine - which normally produces 170 hp at 5,500 rpm - was modified to produce 200 hp at 6,500 rpm. The car's suspension also has been retuned to handle the extra horsepower.
General Motors Corp. and Daimler-Chrysler Corp. also unveiled several vehicles at SEMA. Most of the announcements will impact dealers and the product they sell.
GM says the Chevrolet Tracker finally will get a 2.5L V-6 engine in early '01 model year. Also next fall, the Xtreme low-rider nameplate, popularized by S-10, will be expanded to Blazer (4.3L, 190 hp V-6).
Chevrolet unveiled many vehicles in Las Vegas. One was the S-10 Baja Crew Cab pickup with four regular-sized doors, which likely is to be the automaker's answer to the Ford SportTrac and the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab.
Another was the Suburban Z71 with an integrated roof rack, wheel flares and grounds effects. The bowtie division also unveiled the Express LT - a full-size van that has quad captain's seats, two drop-down 6.4 in. video monitors, wireless headphones and a Sony Playstation.
Chevy again showed the Camaro ZL1, which now thunders with the sound of a 770-hp 8.4L V-8 engine that does 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds, the automaker says. Chevy reinforced the chassis and tweaked the suspension to handle the massive onslaught of power. But Chevy didn't garner all the attention for GM. It shared the spotlight with Pontiac-GMC and Oldsmobile.
GM confirmed its '01 Oldsmobile Aurora will pace the 2000 Ind-ianapolis 500, and it took the wraps off Jthree Oldsmobile Specialty Vehicles. The OSV Alero is equipped with a supercharged 2.4L twin cam engine. The OSV Intrigue includes increased power (250 hp), chassis upgrades and custom exterior ground effects. Olds even tricked up its Silhouette minivan in the mold of a European sports wagon, with performance tuning and exterior/interior modifications.
In January, Pontiac will make available '00 Grand Prix Daytona 500 pace car replicas. They will feature dual-dual exhaust, a split deck lid spoiler and a supercharged 3.8L, V-6 powerplant (240 hp).
The GMC Sierra Professional pickup pushes the realms of creativity with a personal computer that emerges from the center console, hot and cold beverage holders and a brief case sheathe on the interior of the rear door.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler - this year's featured SEMA manufacturer - showed its new Dakota Quad Cab, the GT Cruiser (based on the yet-to-be-released PT Cruiser) and a 250-hp Prowler called the Howler.
The Dakota Quad Cab was the featured vehicle of the SEMA show. Several specialty versions of the vehicle were on display showing the vehicle's versatility.
Quad Cabs for public con-sumption, available in dealerships in mid-November, will have a new storage and seating design, four full-sized front-hinged doors and a new aluminum 4-wheel-drive front axle and be available with the next generation 4.7L V-8 engine.
Prices will start at $19,490 for a 4x2 truck and $22,135 for a 4x4 model. Customers can expect to add $2,500 for popular options including air conditioning and $580 for a V-8.
Dodge executives expect 55% of the output from the Warren (MI) Truck plant to be V-6 equipped and 45% V-8 equipped. About 5% will opt for a 5.9L V-8. Fifty-five percent of the mix is likely to be 4x2 and 45% 4x4, say officials.
Dodge says production started on the Dakota Quad Cab Oct. 6 and some 5,000 have been shipped to dealers. About 15,000 units are expected to be shipped by Christmas.
Dodge brass admits to an internal scrap about naming the new vehicle. "If it's got a bed, it's a pickup," says Jim Julow, vice president of Dodge. "Therefore it's a Dakota rather than a Durango."
The Howler show car, featuring a 250-hp, 4.7L Powertech V-8 engine, is a performance roadster pickup interpretation of the Prowler.
Based on the PT Cruiser, the GT Cru-iser has a turbocharged 2.4L, 200-hp engine coupled with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Hitting dealerships in February, the limited edition "Woodward Edition" Plymouth Prowler remains virtually the same under the hood as previous Prowlers. A two-toned color scheme - red body sides, black rear deck and hood, and red pinstriping - gives the Prowler a fresh look for '00.