I hear the SEMA show was last week. You know the SEMA show, right? It’s that important aftermarket manufacturers’ show held each autumn in Las Vegas where various companies try to pitch their products to customizers and retailers. Like all good automotive trade shows, SEMA features hundreds of companies and dozens upon dozens of custom vehicles. The fancy, hand-built cars draw people to the displays and form a pretty canvas on which a company can display its wares. But like any fashion show there is a hidden truth. The special parts on this or that big-name builder’s hot rod won’t have the same effect on your own, more mundane vehicle. No, for most of us beauty is an illusion; the phrase “lipstick on a pig” exists for a reason.
The SEMA show is a big deal because there is a lot of money at stake. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association predicts 2014 sales to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 248 Billion dollars so it makes sense that the manufacturers go all-in when it comes to the Las Vegas show. Why wouldn’t they? If they have a unique product this is their chance to get it to the consumer. My only question is who actually buys this crap?
Now I’m not talking about performance parts – not genuine ones at least. If you drop a bunch of money on a set of headers or a cold air intake and you buy something that looks clean and neat I’m not going to criticize you. A carbon fiber hood saves weight and if it just happens to look really cool on the black and white Twin-Cam Corolla you have tarted up with JDM Trueno badges I won’t laugh – much. But that’s because I believe in performance modifications. Every enthusiast knows the Feds have regulated all the fun out of the business and that new cars are tuned too lean in order to meet strict emissions guidelines. A reflashed control module and a new exhaust just puts a car right back where it should be and it’s only natural that you should want to get everything you pay for, right? Right?
It’s the other stuff that I wonder about, the stick-on bits of bling and little doo-dads to decorate your car’s interior. Larger modifications too, things like Lambo doors and weird body kits. The economy has been tough these last few years and people are hurting. Still, for whatever reason people seem bound and determined to still squander what little they have. What is the point of buying these things? How much time do you spend in your car that you need to have the insides entirely decorated in Hello Kitty seat covers and lace throw pillows?
We’re all car folks here. We all love our cars and if you are like me you probably spend hours cleaning and detailing your ride to make sure it looks its best. But buying this stick-on crap is over the top. When you face St. Peter at the Pearly Gates he’s sure to ask you why you put those fake Buick porholes on your Saturn. What are you going to say then? Unless you are under 18 or a Japanese “gyaru” there’s no excuse.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.