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Toyota wins sponsor role at trade show

Times Staff Writer

The gargantuan SEMA Show -- an annual extravaganza devoted to all things go-fast and look-good -- has signed Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. as its official vehicle manufacturer this year.

This is only the second time in the trade show’s 40-year history that a foreign automaker has been the main sponsor: American Honda Motor Co., the U.S. arm of Toyota’s Japanese rival, broke the mold in 2005.

Toyota plans to introduce two new production vehicles at the event in Las Vegas, scheduled for Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, but company executives declined to give additional details.

“We treat this as a major auto show,” Toyota spokesman John Hanson said. “So many of our products, our pickups, our Scions, are strategically targeted to buyers who heavily accessorize their vehicles, and that makes SEMA very important to us.”

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The trade show, which began in Los Angeles in 1967 and moved to Las Vegas in 1979, is the world’s largest event devoted to aftermarket auto equipment.

The Diamond Bar-based Specialty Equipment Market Assn., which presents the show, estimates that the aftermarket business has grown to more than $34 billion a year as increasing numbers of owners seek to personalize their cars and trucks.

The event is closed to the public but routinely draws more than 100,000 industry representatives. The gathering, which was designed to allow the more than 5,000 SEMA trade group members to show off their wares, has become a major venue for automakers as well.

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BOTTOM LINE

A second look at cost of driving

An alert reader points out that for the most accurate comparison between the costs of commuting in a private vehicle and using public transit, our item last week should have omitted insurance, financing, depreciation and tax and license fees on the car because they would exist whether it was being used or not.

Actually, if one used transit instead of buying a second (or third) car for commuting, our calculations would still stand: You could save $14 to $27 per trip by using buses and trains instead of a car to travel 64 miles round trip from downtown Santa Ana to downtown Los Angeles.

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Those figures are based on the Automobile Club of Southern California’s car ownership cost estimate of 67 cents a mile and published fares showing various combinations of bus or bus and Metro Rail or Amtrak, which would cost $16 to $29 per round trip.

But if public transit were being used to replace only a few round trips a week, and the private vehicle were still in play, then at today’s gasoline prices the savings start disappearing for vehicles that get at least 17 miles per gallon.

At 16 mpg, the cost of $3.45-a-gallon gasoline and the prorated costs of tire wear and maintenance put the round-trip cost at just about $16.50; it would fall to $15.60 at 17 mpg and drop further with each additional mile-per-gallon improvement in fuel economy.

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THE ROAD AHEAD

Highway 1

Coming Wednesday to The Times’ weekly auto section:

Rumble Seat: Dan Neil reviews the Smart ForTwo.

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Throttle Jockey: Susan Carpenter rides Intrepid Cycles’ Steadfast chopper.

Online: latimes.com/lawheels


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