• Image Credit: Joe Wilssens Photography, Inc.
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Joe Wilssens Photography, Inc.
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Image Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Don't let the glare from all that chrome blind you or distract from a buttoned-downed reality: the SEMA show is big business.

The SEMA show in Las Vegas is where automakers and tuners roll out some of their gaudiest wares. It's a feast for the senses – especially if you like huge wheels, crazy paint jobs and over-the-top performance. But don't let the glare from all that chrome blind you or distract from a buttoned-downed reality: the SEMA show is big business.

Last year it attracted more than 60,000 buyers from around the world, and nearly 2,000 products were introduced in one of the show's spotlight sections, called the new product showcase. It's ground zero for the $30-billion automotive aftermarket in North America, which has been steadily growing the last five years.

Naturally, car companies want a piece of that.
Mopar, which traditionally has a prominent display, is bringing a road-racing-styled Viper, custom Jeep Renegades dubbed the "Frostbite" and "Riptide" and a huge Ram ProMaster van that doubles as a fully functioning bar and merchandise booth. They'll vie for space with an array of Dodge Challengers, Chargers and Jeep Wranglers.

"It lets us show all of the things we have, but also develop pieces and parts," said Mark Trostle, head of Mopar and SRT design. "SEMA is the perfect place to show what we can do."

Chrysler 200S Mopar SEMA

It's also a venue to show what automakers are thinking of doing. Mopar will show off 19-inch bronze-colored wheels on a Chrysler 200S next week, and they're expected to be available as an aftermarket offering in 2015.

While Mopar, which specializes in parts and customization, places major emphasis on the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show, it's become a significant event on the global auto show calendar. Many major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Honda and Mazda, have large presences at the show, and they use it as a way to connect with enthusiast customers.

As it's grown, the show has evolved, with features like a "Battle of the Builders" competition between top hot-rodders and customizers, awards for the best cars at the show, and even an official after party called SEMA Ignited, which allows the public to see some of the trade show's most exciting exhibits.

Next week, the eyes of the industry will again fall on this custom show in the desert. Thought it's an event rooted in the passion of enthusiasts, make no mistake: SEMA – like Las Vegas – is all about the money.

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Chevy, however, quickly flipped the script, turning it from a cringe-worthy moment (retiring baseball commissioner Bud Selig looked visibly bewildered), to a strong marketing campaign, and the hashtag #technologyandstuff went viral, bringing the new truck to a wide range of potential buyers.

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Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it's fined Ferrari $3.5 million for failing to report three fatal accidents and file "early warning reports" about safety issues.

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