THE 2023 SEMA NEW VEHICLE AWARDS
Recognizing the Most Customizable New Vehicles for the Coming Year
Compiled by SEMA MAGAZINE Staff
Each year prior to the SEMA Show, exhibitors are asked to select the new vehicles that, in their judgment, represent the best opportunities for customization and accessorization via the aftermarket for the coming year. Vehicles are chosen in six separate classes, and the winners are announced before the start of the Show. This year’s announcement was made on Monday, October 30, before the opening of the 2023 Show.
“The SEMA New Vehicle Awards recognize the newest OE platforms that offer the greatest opportunities for customization,” said Warren Kosikov, SEMA vice president of sales. “SEMA Award-winning vehicles are setting the pace in the enthusiast aftermarket, and the 2023 SEMA Show will host many of these award-winning vehicles, each built and accessorized in its own unique way.”
What follows on these pages is a sampling of the winning vehicles that exhibited at the 2023 SEMA Show.
SEMA Car of The Year
The world’s best-selling sport coupe, Ford’s iconic pony car has been a perennial favorite with the aftermarket, and the all-new, seventh-gen ’24 model provides opportunities galore for builders looking for new platforms on which to create.
“Ford customers love to personalize the performance and appearance of their vehicles, especially Mustang, Bronco and Ranger,” said Mark Wilson, Ford North America vehicle personalization manager. “The Ford Performance parts packages we’re debuting combine the latest design trends with aftermarket accessories engineered to work with these vehicles out of the box.”
Ford brought the new Mustang FP800S concept package to the 2023 SEMA Show, which can be built atop any ’24 Mustang GT coupe with the addition of a new 3.0L, sixth-generation Whipple Supercharger kit, which also available independently of the FP800S package. The FP800S performance package elevates total output to at least 800 hp.
To help manage the fury of the additional horsepower over the standard Mustang GT, the FP800S includes a Ford Performance half-shaft upgrade kit and a street lowering kit. Options include a Borla cat-back exhaust with quad 5.0-in. exhaust tips and carbon-fiber aero elements.
SEMA FullSize Truck of The Year
Ford’s best-selling pickup celebrated its 75th birthday in 2023, and after 14 generations, it’s still a popular platform for specialty-equipment manufacturers and consumers alike.
For 2024, Ford offers the F-150 in eight different trim levels, from the base-model XL to the Baja-ready Raptor, with three cab configurations, three bed lengths, and engine options ranging from the flex-fuel capable 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with Auto Start-Stop Technology to the legendary 5.0L V8, which combined with a 10-speed automatic transmission delivers 400 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.
“The Ford truck team’s ability to anticipate customer needs, continuously innovate, and provide best-in-class levels of capability and performance has helped make F-Series the sales leader time and time again,” said Kumar Galhotra, president, Ford Blue. “We’re honored and humbled that our customers have helped us achieve this milestone for more than four decades.”
SEMA 4x4/SUV of The Year
A hit from its inception, the three-year-old Bronco has already spawned a robust and growing aftermarket for model-specific parts ranging from suspension components to exterior bolt-ons to cargo, overlanding and lifestyle gear.
At the 2023 SEMA Show, Ford showcased the Bronco Ford Performance ORV concept package, which is available on any Bronco Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, or Outer Banks with the 2.3L EcoBoost engine and either automatic or manual transmission. It starts with a 2.0-in. lift via a Bilstein suspension, which accommodates 17-in. white wheels and 35-in. tires. The Bronco package also adds a unique software calibration for the 2.3L engine. Ford Performance options for the ORV pack include a high-clearance Borla cat-back exhaust, an ARB jack and mount and an underhood compressor.
Ford also exhibited the Ford Accessory Personalization concept package, which included retro-cool graphics, an open-air Bimini roof, tube doors and painted wheel arches and grille from the Outer Banks trim, all of which aimed to represent the carefree attitude of a beach-going vehicle.
SEMA Sport Compact of The Year
Long a favorite of tuners, Z-cars enjoy a healthy presence at the SEMA Show each year, and Nissan’s newest should likewise appeal to performance builders and accessorizers.
Nissan’s Thrill Street exhibit at the 2023 SEMA Show showcased a wide range of production and concept vehicles, including the ’23 Nissan Z NISMO, a Safari-style Z concept vehicle and a replica of the Datsun 240Z rally car that helped cement the Z’s place as a sports car icon with its victory in the 1971 East African Safari Rally.
The Nissan Z doubles down on thrilling performance for the ’24 model year with the return of Z NISMO, which delivers features 420 hp and numerous handling, braking and chassis enhancements that elevate its performance on the racetrack.
Additionally, the ’24 Nissan Z Sport and Z Performance continue to offer buyers options to configure a Z that suits their driving style. A standard 3.0L V6 twin turbo engine rated at 400 hp is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with Exedy high-performance clutch as standard, or a responsive nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
SEMA EV of the Year
Ford F-150 Lightning
“Highly anticipated” would be an understatement to describe Ford’s all-new electric truck. Ford received 200,000 preorders before a single unit was built, and supply-chain disruptions have caused production delays. Still, the F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for 45 years running, so this latest addition to Ford’s fullsize pickup line should be a hit with consumers and customizers, too.
“Earning North America’s EV of the Year is huge for the team that has been working so hard to build and deliver as many Lightnings as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO. “We’re moving fast to further ramp production to a 150,000-run rate this fall and pushing to improve every aspect of this truck. We’ve started delivering Lightnings from the factory with a fantastic new user interface update to improve the driver experience that we’ll also roll out to all of our Lightning owners over-the-air.”
“When America’s best-selling vehicle goes electric, you know the transition has momentum,” said Karl Brauer, NACTOY juror and freelance journalist for Forbes. “Ford’s effort to create an all-electric F-150 is remarkable because it combines the standard truck’s dimensions, which means it retains massive aftermarket support, with substantial upgrades to areas like storage and mobile power support. It’s really the best of all worlds, giving the F-150 Lightning a wide range of applications for both traditional and new-to-the-segment truck customers.”
SEMA MidSize Truck of the Year
Toyotas in general are perennial favorites of accessorizers, and Toyota’s all-new fifth-gen Tacoma holds additional promise for the coming year. Toyota is offering the Tacoma in eight different models, so consumers (and customizers) will have a variety of palates on which to realize their own artistic visions.
“We are proud to receive the SEMA Midsize Truck of the Year award,” said Mike Tripp, group vice president, Toyota Marketing. “The SEMA Awards celebrate the creativity and personalization that play so heavily with customers. For 2024, we have built a Tacoma for every person and every lifestyle with the flexibility to allow customers to find their own adventure and push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
At the 2023 SEMA Show, Toyota exhibited seven ’24 Tacomas that represented just a few of the many possibilities Tacoma offers. The concepts and specialty builds include the Tacoma Blue Beetle in addition to accessorized versions of Tacoma TrailHunter, Tacoma TRD Pro, Tacoma TRD Off-Road and more. Toyota also debuted the ’24 Tacoma X-Runner Concept, Toyota Calty Design Studio’s take on what a 3.4L twin-turbocharged V6 in a slammed street truck could look like given the flexibility offered by Tacoma’s TGNA-F product platform.