American drivers continue to embrace the notion of customization and personalization, having purchased a record $36.72 billion worth of specialty automotive products in 2006. The number represents a 7% increase over 2005, when sales reached $34.28 billion.

"Today's consumer wants something unique and different," said Jim Spoonhower, vice president of market research for SEMA. "They're buying vehicles that are dependable and reliable, but then they're personalizing those vehicles so that they look distinctive, perform differently, are more comfortable, convenient, safe or just more fun."

SEMA has been actively monitoring the specialty automotive market since 1986. The association reports that the automotive specialty-equipment industry has seen sales grow an average of 7.4% per year during the last 10 years. Meanwhile, the growth of the total automotive aftermarket (which includes repair parts) and the U.S. economy has been much slower (4.4% and 3.2%, respectively).

"What's really exciting is that we're seeing more and more mainstream consumers discovering the benefits of vehicle personalization," said Spoonhower. A 2007 survey found that 25% of American drivers plan to purchase automotive specialty-equipment industry products in the next 90 days.

SEMA also notes that automakers are recognizing the importance of customization. In fact, many automakers collaborate with SEMA on programs that allow members to develop products better, faster and more efficiently than ever before. This trend is resulting in more products and giving consumers greater options.

"The automotive specialty-equipment industry is made up of innovators," Spoonhower continued. "Because many enter the industry as enthusiasts who know and love the hobby, they have a deep understanding of what the end-users will want and need. "As a result, products are resonating with consumers more than ever before."

Industry manufacturers continue to develop an impressive number of new products year after year. The SEMA Show, referred to as the premier automotive accessories trade show in the world, consistently debuts more than 1,000 new products each year. Open exclusively to industry professionals, the annual event will be held October 30–November 2, 2007, in Las Vegas. Details about the Show are available at

Comprehensive details on the size of the automotive specialty-equipment market and other industry trends can be found in the June 2007 issue of SEMA News.

Automotive Specialty-Equipment Growth Trend

Year    Retail Sales    Year-Over-Year Change    GDP Change
1996    $17.65 billion                6.0%                      3.7%
1997    $19.33 billion                8.4%                      4.5%
1998    $21.20 billion                9.1%                      4.2%
1999    $23.24 billion                9.4%                      4.5%
2000    $24.86 billion                7.0%                      3.7%
2001    $25.90 billion                3.8%                      0.8%
2002    $26.84 billion                3.1%                      1.6%
2003    $28.91 billion                7.7%                      2.5%
2004    $31.45 billion                8.8%                      3.9%
2005    $34.28 billion                9.2%                      3.2%
2006    $36.72 billion                7.1%                      3.4%

Source: Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)