SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 25, June 25, 2009

Selling in High Volume—Top Products for the 4-Cylinder Crowd

 Scion xB
 Scion’s second-generation xB shares Toyota’s 2AZ-FE engine with the Camry, Camry Solara, Corolla, Matrix and the Scion tC.

 4- & 5-cylinder engines Top 10
 Two of the top-sellling engines, one from Toyota and one from Volkswagen, account for nearly half a million units per year each.

 4 Cylinder Vehicles Top 20 Mods
 Top products purchased address daily driving, comfort and mild performance upgrades.

 4-Cylinder Vehicles Top 20 First Mods
 Cold air intakes reign supreme for the bang-for-the-buck market of small displacement engines.

Six of the top 10 best-selling engines are four- or five-cylinder engines. According to Ward's Auto, these engines are included not just in some of the top-selling vehicles in North America, but are also spread across models without many significant changes.

In economics, the economies of scale depict this scenario as essentially profitable since the average costs to produce these non-unique items are reduced as their volume increase. This is tantamount to the “bulk buy” phenomenon for purchasing, and commonly used in many forms of mass production and vehicle manufacturing.

For specialty-equipment manufacturers, this level of consistency over a wide range of products helps reduce costs downstream as well.

For 4- and 5-cylinder vehicles, the most numerous engines come from Asian and German manufacturers, many of which are relatively unchanged between models. There are always variations, but the foundations are highly related.

Honda’s K-series engines, for example, have been used in models ranging from the Honda Civic to the Element as 2.0-liter through 2.4-liter iterations. The architecture and characteristics come in a multitude of varieties but their similarities often allow for engine modifications to be shared within the engine-family.

Lumped together, the primary units used in Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda and Nissan vehicles were available in over 2.6 million vehicles in 2008 and many have been carried over for 2009. Domestic engines from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler do make the top 10 in units and accounted for about 600,000 units in 2008.

Both the GM 2.4-liter and Chrysler 2.4-liter engines were crammed into the engine bays of half-a-dozen models each.

It is not always just about engine modifications, though. SEMA market research collects enthusiast data for vehicle modifications and always builds in a provision for engine-size classifications. From the annual surveys of 3,000 or more enthusiasts, the most common and first modifications purchased help underscore the primary motivations for those within the hobby.

The most common upgrades were performance tires (54.93%) and 15 of the top 20 products purchased were not directly related to engine modifications. Perhaps the initial purchase of a small-displacement vehicle lends itself to approaching vehicle customization differently than the V8 crowd. It also speaks towards the overall perspective of vehicle ownership, regular use (“daily drivers”) and affordability.

Many of the most common items purchased by this crowd address vehicle handing and comfort: polish/wax, suspension, lighting, mobile electronics and brakes. — SEMA Research & Information Center

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