SEMA split the International Auto Salon in half and will produce a West Coast show and an East Coast show in 2004. The left coast show was April 2-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Salon is a trade show for the sport compact market that's open to the public so companies can expose their products to the collected media and get feedback from enthusiasts mano-a-mano.

The new approach was met with mixed opinions. Some say the Salon has been tailing off since moving from the Long Beach Convention Center a few years ago. In L.A. there's nothing to do outside of the venue, parking is minimal ($10) and traffic sucks. Others say the direct contact with the buying public is what makes the show a must.

In our experience, less and less noteworthy products are being unveiled at the Salon and there seemed to be fewer booths, although the huge size of the Mopar, GM and Nismo booths, to name a few, may lead one to think otherwise. There were plenty of display vehicles, which are good for us (possible feature material) and the public (something to drool over).

We plan to check out the East Coast show in Atlantic City, which is a mere six weeks after the L.A. event. It should have a different vibe and it'll be interesting to see how many companies attend both shows.

In L.A. we scoured the Convention Center's South Hall to find the diamonds in the rough and came up with some fairly interesting tidbits from the 2004 International Auto Salon.