SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 19, May 14, 2009

Enthusiasts Unsure of What Vehicle to Purchase Next

Enthusiast Vehicle Choices
Uncertainty in the economy has carried over into vehicle choices. Consumers are unsure what steps to take next, but they want something different.

Most enthusiasts are usually hard-set on the vehicles they want to own. Some believe strongly in brand loyalty, while others simply want the loudest and most powerful vehicle fresh off the speed shop floor. Some succumb to nostalgia and seek the cars they drove as teenagers; some buy what their friends have or follow trends; and others narrow the choices based on utility. Unfortunately, the general uncertainty from the economy has carried over into the buying habits of the specialty-equipment industry.

Consumers who expressed interest in purchasing another vehicle within the next six months are much less confident in their convictions than in the past. In other words, they know they want or need a new vehicle soon, but they do not have a strong feeling about what that new purchase will be.

The uncertainty can be tagged to any number of economic conditions, let alone to general economic welfare leaving consumers without available credit. Fuel prices and, more specifically, their volatility during last year’s $4-per-gallon spike forced consumers to shift their attention toward alternatives in both size and fuel type. But, other forces are also changing the landscape of the vehicles that consumers are able to purchase and want to purchase. Challenging emissions standards for diesel engines, OEM bankruptcies and insolvencies, dealership closures, seemingly unprecedented financing and incentives packages and a whole crop of new vehicles in the pipeline that are radically different than what the buying public has been used to are leaving consumers with no direction.

When looking at the table of responses from the recent survey, consumers are indicating that they are ready for change; however, they do not indicate what that change will be. Both pickup and SUV/CUV choices look as if they are dwindling. However, the other segments have not changed significantly enough to assume that consumers have a concrete objective. Owners of sports cars, compacts, midsize and large-size vehicles appear to be unwavering, but utility owners are unsure. They have not moved entirely into new categories, but have become uncertain about their next purchase.

The same feelings appear when asked if the next vehicle will be new or used; nearly half (46%) do not know what type of vehicle they will purchase next.

The opportunities exist in taking the uncertainty and replacing it with desire; this has always been the best tool in the shed for specialty-equipment manufacturers and can help drive business. From high-performance parts to custom designs and entertainment, consumers want options for their hobby and need to know what products and services are available to them. This can be achieved by being active in the industry, getting their attention by displaying products and feeding them information.

SEMA Research & Information Center

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