The SEMA Import Auto Salon has a new title to kick off the new millennium-International Auto Salon. The addition of "International" opens the door for domestic manufacturers of four-cylinder, front-drive compacts. And there are plenty of domestic companies salivating, waiting to tap into the explosive sport compact scene. The domestic charge is led by Ford which has been pushing its Ford Focus for well over a year and has made some substantial in-roads. The Blue Oval boys have provided numerous project cars to "import" companies and have helped build some high-profile drag vehicles including Wayne Saunders' rear-drive Focus (now the property of Southern California's Ben Ma), a Quick Class racer from STR and the Nuformz-built, tube- frame racer which recently landed major sponsorship from Meguiar's. Will the Focus catch on? There is little doubt that Ford will sell a gang-load of cars but the Focus' success in this market is by no means assured. The Focus has plenty of backing from Ford and many reputable aftermarket companies, but it's the enthusiast who will ultimately determine its fate.
The Auto Salon was modeled and named after the Tokyo Auto Salon. The two events are similar in spirit, in the heritage of the cars and in the fact that both are open to the public. This is one area where the Salon differentiates itself from the SEMA Show. Many import scene manufacturers are using the Salon to introduce new products. The Salon is smaller than the SEMA Show and provides more exposure for the parts. The Salon also better targets the end-user and allows manufacturers to get immediate consumer feedback. One of the big hits of the Salon could be found in the FAL booth. FAL is a division of Flex-A-Lite and the company has been on a roll lately. At the SEMA Show, it won an award for its high-tech and cosmetically pleasing cooling fans. At the Salon, FAL unveiled a hard-hitting, race product, pre-formed Lexan window insert kits for imports. Any racer or high-performance enthusiast who has ever attempted to add Lexan knows how incredible a window kit is. When they see the pricing, they will again be shocked; the kit is very affordable. We were quite impressed and award FAL our officially unofficial Best Product award for the kit.
We also took notice of Advance Engine Management's complete fuel system kit that includes a high-flow pump, custom fuel rail and regulator pre-matched for optimum performance. There were a grip of turbo kits on the floor. HKS had kits for the Focus and Integra, FasTrax had a kit for the Focus, GReddy had one for the Civic Si (to name a few). Crower used the Salon to debut its line of camshafts and there were a number of high-profile race and show cars flexing dot.com sponsor stickers. Look for in-depth testing of Crower's bumpsticks as they come to market. To get a feel for the aura of the show, we have compiled a photo tour of the Salon. As Nissan says, "Enjoy the ride."