Las Vegas — Defying a gloomy economy, the 2008 Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show is expected to be the second largest gathering in the history of the car parts and electronics show, reaching attendance of more than 100,000.
In the mobile electronics section, however, booth space is down from just more than 200 exhibitors last year to 163 exhibitors this year, said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA events and communications VP. Some key suppliers skipping this year's show include Pioneer and Audiovox.
"Given the state of the economy we're somewhat pleased it will be a strong No. 2," said MacGillivray of overall attendance.
This year, most suppliers polled by TWICE said they are holding new product introductions until International CES in January but a few are unveiling new models at SEMA this week including new entries in GPS radar detectors, OEM integration accessories and portable GPS.
Radar detectors are making the switch to red-light and speed-camera detection, using GPS to identify when the car is nearing a camera.
In OEM integration accessories, more companies are offering interfaces that convert a car's navigation screen into a full-purpose video monitor or a backup camera monitor to display any objects behind the car.
In video, Vizualogic is showing its first do-it-yourself, rear-seat entertainment in a box system. Called the RoadTrip, it includes headrest replacements with built-in monitors — one of which includes an embedded DVD player. The monitors offer touchscreen controls, and the system has an SD card slot and auxiliary input. Headrests ship with black, tan or gray covers. The RoadTrip is designed for simple installation. A mechanic "can be in his driveway and install it in an hour or less," said Vizualogic product marketing manager Kevin Kraack. It will carry a suggested retail of $799.
In OEM integration, Peripheral is showing a backup camera interface that lets a factory navigation screen automatically switch to backup camera mode when the car is placed in reverse and then return to navigation mode, when the car is placed in drive. It works with most backup cameras on select Nissan, Infiniti, Honda and General Motors vehicles and recently began shipping at a suggested retail of $499.
A similar interface from Nav-TV lets owners of Ford Sync navigation systems use the dashboard screen to display video (even while the car is in motion) and backup camera images.
The interface is a plug-in harness lets the car play DVDs on the Sync system and works with optional back up cameras to display objects behind the car. The Ford Sync currently plays DVDs only when the car is in park and it does not offer backup camera capability. Called the NAV-TVALLSync it is shipping now at a suggested retail of $749, excluding the actual backup camera.
In the next 30 to 45 days, Nav-TV also plans to add interfaces that let a Sync navigation system display video from an iPod or other video sources including a night-vision camera to display the road ahead in poor conditions.
SoundGate announced just prior to SEMA that its CORE universal adapter for connecting Microsoft Zune MP3 players to most car sound systems will be carried by all Circuit City locations this month. SoundGate is also unveiling at SEMA a new Core universal adapter for the iPod.
The Core black box has three ports plus an iPod connector. The user plugs the Core into an auxiliary input and the cigarette lighter as well as the iPod to play back music through the car stereo and charge the iPod. Music on the iPod can be controlled from the head unit, or the iPod or an optional remote control. Suggested retail for the Core for iPod is $79.95
Also at SEMA, Dual is showing two head units with iTunes tagging first announced in January. The XHD7720 and XHD7714, each at $249, let listeners bookmark favorite songs heard on HD Radio by pressing a button on the head unit. Once an iPod is plugged into the radio and then synched with a PC, all the bookmarked songs will appear on iTunes for purchase. The XH7720 offers HD radio and iPod connectivity and is Bluetooth ready with an optional kit. The model XHD7714 offers built-in Bluetooth for hands free calling.