SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 16, April 23, 2009

Consumers Reconsidering Decisions to Purchase New Vehicles

Consumers remain hesitant to make new-vehicle purchases. Recent economic instability has not only caused consumers to reconsider these substantial purchases, but has also led them to neglect maintenance. Furthermore, when they finally succumb to vehicle repairs they have begun turning to run-of-the-mill mechanics.

These are some of the findings in a recent AAMCO survey. Responses showed a whopping 63% of people were reconsidering their new-vehicle purchases.

“Buying a new car is a major investment," Mike Ganjei, president of the National AAMCO Dealers association, told Aftermarket Business. "Perhaps it's not an option at this time for consumers because of the troubled economy and uncertainty in the job market.”

Even more hazardous, and potentially more costly for consumers, is their willingness to postpone maintenance and service due to personal finances and economic hardships. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said that they would be willing to repair their vehicle if the cost of such repairs or maintenance were less than $2,000. Conversely, if the cost were more than $3,000, many of them were inclined to get rid of the vehicle.

SEMA members may recall the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Performance parts and accessories may seem an ill-fitting solution for consumers in the current economy, but the reality is that customization, vehicle maintenance and ownership satisfaction are all intertwined. When owners retain their vehicles for financial reasons, they will rely on specialty-equipment parts, replacement and custom, to keep them running as long as the additional costs make financial sense.

Incremental repairs and upgrades to slightly older vehicles may keep transportation costs down and, if done properly, increase the vehicle’s utility. Opportunities can be found if consumers see the long-term value in replacing and upgrading old systems instead of turning to new vehicles.

Down payments, monthly payments, titling, registration and sales tax all make new vehicles costly purchases, even when incentives are offered. Additionally, those owners with any inclination for personalization will substitute some of the “need” products for the “want” items.

High-performance products, such as fluids, oils and lubricants, can go a long way. While often engineered to withstand high-performance driving and racing situations, their use in commuter cars may show no improvements in the longevity of the product. Members can use this statistic to not only develop business plans for production (i.e. focusing on specialty equipment for new vehicles or used), but they can also use it to focus marketing more effectively.

Knowing that consumers want products that will enhance the longevity of their vehicles, marketing of related products that will do that can improve sales and bolster confidence in the industry. — SEMA Research & Information Center

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