SEMA Show 2017 Recap

SEMA Recap:

2017 was IDParts’ 6th year attending SEMA. Each year there seems to be one vehicle that appears in more displays than anything else. Our first year attending it was the Subaru BRZ/Scion FRZ. We were told there were over 80 of them at the show. A couple years later it was the latest generation Mustang. This year it wasn’t any one brand or model, but instead it was…trucks. Trucks everywhere. All of them lifted. Some, lifted a lot. And most of them are diesels. Diesel cars may be under the gun in North America, but if SEMA is any indicator, diesel trucks are stronger than ever. All that diesel torque is seductive, especially when you’re running larger-than-stock wheels.


Some, like the Earth Roamer RV, featured above, are too big to fit easily in one photo. Others are more manageable, like this Colorado ZR2 below. 


Either way, SEMA is about modding vehicles. And with diesels, that means modifying engines for better performance. Although tuning and meeting emissions standards have been at odds, we see some improvements.

Modding & Diesel Emissions

The 2008 Clean Air Act emissions regulations introduced technologies such as the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and exhaust after treatment with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) a.k.a. AdBlue. Since 2008 these regulations have had a chilling effect on the aftermarket, especially in the sphere of power modification. Modifying engines to increase output became a violation of emissions regulations and these violations came with steep penalties. However, at this year’s SEMA Show, a plethora of new products introduced new hope for the aftermarket and possibilities in the era of strict emissions regulations.

Aftermarket DPFs

After years of rumors, multiple manufacturers are now introducing aftermarket replacement DPFs. These aftermarket options are now available because of an addition to the Clean Air Act called “Memo 1” that allows manufacturers to self-certify compliance.  Before the memo 1 addition, manufacturers had to submit their replacement parts for expensive EPA testing to receive approval.  This effectively killed the aftermarket, giving the OE a complete monopoly.  However, now that the aftermarket is allowed to produce replacement DPFs, we expect the price to drop and availability to rise quickly.  The effect of this is that the dreaded DPF light no longer carries an exorbitant price tag or needing to work with unreliable dealerships.

“Performance” DPFs

Diesel particulate filters unfortunately create a lot of compromises in regards to engine performance.  Cleaning the DPF via “regens” uses extra fuel, for example.  The filter itself, meanwhile, introduces an additional restriction point in the exhaust system.  In addition to new replacement units, a few manufacturers were excited to introduce “performance” DPFs.  These larger-than-stock units improve flow and soot capacity.  This paves the way for emissions compliant power upgrades in the future.  

Factory Engine Conversion Packages

One large concern over the Clean Air Act was how it applied to cars with swapped drive trains.  This includes those who upgrade a classic Mustang with a larger more modern engine and/or those that swap Diesel engines into vehicles that did not originally come with them.  Initially it was understood that the Clean Air Act forbid such activity, which caused a lot of pushback from the automotive enthusiast community.  Thankfully there has been progress on this front to.

We were excited to see that many factory brands, including Ford, GM and Chrysler, have introduced full package conversion kits that include new generation engines plus all the electronics and emissions equipment required to make a fully emissions compliant build.  A few months ago you might remember we talked about the Cummins 4BT Wrangler Conversion package – an emissions compliant way to swap a diesel into a TJ Wrangler.  

Emissions Compliant Future

These new products show that the performance aftermarket has embraced the idea of emissions-compliant performance upgrades. Sensible tweaks to the Clean Air Act made a lot of this possible, and it is notable that the aftermarket and OE have responded so strongly.  As an enthusiast, I’m excited about the possibility of modifications without worrying about being caught or jumping through hoops to pass emissions inspections.

As IDParts’ 6th year attending SEMA, it was fun to see all the trucks, especially since most of them were diesels. As I mentioned before, diesel cars may be under the gun in North America, but based on what we saw at SEMA Show 2017, diesel trucks are stronger than ever. If you have any questions or comments about this year’s show, let us know by commenting on this blog below.


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