Well the grind is coming to an end and my last hours of the show were spent trying to gauge the future direction of the sport compact aftermarket. I admit to having zero Greenspan DNA when it comes to economics but everybody knows were up against it going into 2009.
While reflecting how upbeat everyone was about the future at lunch I caught a glimpse of CNN on a big screen and the Dow was down 389 points. Ouch. The recurring story was a reflection of the rest of business America. Things were flat until October then they tanked. The convulsion on Wall Street tightened purse strings around the country and the phones of our favorite parts manufacturers went silent. Many say the next 18 months or so will be key and none that I talked to saw any overnight turnarounds.
Some of the common themes are companies with strong reputations i.e. top quality products will fare better. These companies, to quote AEM's Greg Neuwirth "are not worried about the long term as much as cranky about the short turn." Baer Brake's Todd Gartshore says companies used to running lean will come out fine on the other side of this. He said Baer will be expanding its application lists and looks to save costs by manufacturing its own calipers, getting better quality with savings it can pass on to customers.
Looking for positive notes there were some bright spots. Japanese tuning house Mines had a booth with its line of Nissan GT-R parts front-and-center. The GT-R was a smash hit with as two or three dozen plastered throughout the show, well beyond my wildest expectations. Further many flexed far more than wheels and tires with a grip of body tuning, suspension and even engine performance parts fully developed. The Evo X was another strong import contender followed by the 350Z which, thanks to a company called Tech2, was a popular swap platform.
Mopar fans continued to enjoy a renaissance with the Challenger being a popular booth companion for many. The new Camaro has had a ripple effect as there were more older '67 to '69 Camaros at the show this year than the last five or six SEMAs put together.
With GReddy and HKS and many other go-to players in the import performance segment among the missing finding the latest and greatest tuning parts was a tough, which has me concerned. Usually there are a lot of really trick, too-new-for-the-new-products-section stuff on the floor but these gems failed to materialize this year.
It's a different vibe for sure. The enthusiasm level is there. I saw a lot of young urban-esque enthusiasts prowling the convention center but my world was shaken when I came upon Capt. Phil Harris from Discovery's 'Deadliest Catch" TV show in the Kicker booth. The dude had a line of fans stretching down the aisle. I recently saw his '06 Corvette for sale on the Seattle Craigslist, so maybe he landed a C6 and is looking to modify. Hey new blood is new blood. [And it just so happens that our friend... DJ IMPULSE from Bmore BIA! is in this shot yapping in the background - MK]