OVERLANDING IS IN
We’ve touched on overlanding before, but for those of you who don’t know, overlanding is the act of going on a vehicle-dependent trip to a remote location or chain of locations, often for extended periods of time. The activity has its origins in Australia, but since has been picking up steam in the US. It seems this year overlanding has hit critical mass – everywhere you’d look at this year’s SEMA show, you’d see trucks and SUVs with bedracks, tents, roof racks, tents, utility storage, built-in amenities, recovery gear, tents… did we mention, tents? The trend has become so popular in fact that SEMA dedicated an entire section, the Overland Experience area, to the vehicles, accessories and the lifestyle that makes up overlanding.
While this movement’s biggest stronghold in the US is still firmly planted out west, you will absolutely be seeing more and more of it on the eastern seaboard as it continues to gain popularity. Companies from every scope of the automotive world, from aftermarket brands to OEM’s, were displaying overland-approved builds and products at their booths. Ford’s booth in particular featured an abundance of overland equipped Rangers, Explorers, Escapes, F-150s and Super Duties. This shows that the Blue Oval knows that the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
RISE OF THE GLADIATOR
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the new Jeep Gladiator (JT) was hands down the most popular vehicle in the 4×4 segment this year. Gladiator builds littered the exhibit halls, many of them purpose built for – you guessed it – overlanding. It seems that if a Gladiator made an appearance at SEMA this year, it was mandated to feature a roof-top tent. Other common features included bed and roof racks and sliding cargo bed-drawers. Jeep even showed up with it’s own Gladiator-based concept, the two-door J6. This all points to the fact that the Gladiator is here to stay, and it’s a serious competitor in the pickup truck market.
While black has been the dominant wheel color in the off-road segment for years now, a change is beginning to brew. This year, SEMA saw wheel manufactures and vehicle builders experimenting with a new color palette. While there were many flashy options that will never see the world outside of SEMA, the most popular finishes were matte bronzes and gunmetals that were real-world ready. These wheel colors, and the wheel designs themselves, are taking styling cues from military-issue wheels, with many new designs looking similar to what one might find on an active-duty vehicle today.
Furthermore, wheels just keep getting bigger. Of all the off-road builds we saw, it seemed like 20” wheels were the absolute minimum requirement for entry. Some of this is for looks, but many builders paired these wheels with serious tires – 42” and larger weren’t uncommon. This is a trend we fully expect to cross over into the real world as well.
Taking this year’s trends into account, dealerships should be on the lookout for a few things. First, dealerships would do well to keep an overland-ready vehicle or two on hand. As the trend spreads into the southeast, people will undoubtedly be looking for a vehicle with which they can participate. While any 4×4 truck or SUV offers a good platform on which to build an overlander, offering a roof rack and/or bed rack and all-terrains straight from the dealership gets buyers one step closer to overlanding. Second, don’t be afraid to up-fit vehicles with bronze, gunmetal or otherwise non-black wheel options. Their popularity has been proven at SEMA and out in the real world, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
ABOUT SOUTHERN OFF-ROAD SPECIALISTS
Southern Off-Road Specialists offers three distinct dealership packages, each of which features several standard features. However, each package can be custom tailored to fit a dealer’s needs. Want to get in on overlanding market? Add a bed rack, light bar, traction pads and a winch to our Valor or Anthem lift packages for an ideal overland vehicle – straight from your showroom.