Market Snapshot


“VIP” is commonly tagged throughout American culture, but the acronym has permeated the hobby and lifestyles of automotive enthusiasts. While the root of the phrase is easy to understand, the usage as a specific car style is more equivocal. The main reason, and not to keep you waiting, is that VIP Style is not interchangeable with the traditional VIP meaning. The general label can be affixed to everything from extreme hospitality to the cars of the stars. But, VIP style from Japan demands a unique set of parameters. This trend has spread from the streets of Osaka to a global audience, and in the United States, this style has stirred up enough commotion to warrant an independent study. SEMA’s Market Research Department tapped into a leading VIP community,, to illustrate how the movement is being adopted by North American enthusiasts.

In this installment, we will highlight the cars that these consumers are focusing their attention on. If you want to start a serious argument, jump into a conversation and ask, “Is my Rolls-Royce a VIP car?” Your inquiry may be met with a quick retort that borders on the aggressive. Many enthusiasts interested in this concept abide by rules they learned from other enthusiasts or by flipping through Japanese magazines that they are unable to read. The purists of the group will even stand by stringent rules that classify cars down to chassis type. The view of some is that if a car is not a specific luxury Nissan or Toyota, it simply does not qualify. Due to the brief nature of this article, we will not spend time discussing these beliefs but felt the necessity to report that they exist.

The data we have been collecting from enthusiasts has helped to shed light on their buying habits, their perceptions and most importantly their demands. Car selection is a significant priority. Instead of modifying the cars they have in the driveway, the majority of these consumers proactively acquire luxury vehicles.

Lexus and Infiniti are the dominant brands since they parallel the models found in their Japanese-spec Toyota and Nissan counterparts. The top four models include the Infiniti Q45 (Nissan Cima/President), Lexus LS (Toyota Celsior), Lexus GS (Toyota Aristo) and Scion xB (Toyota bB). Scion’s inclusion stems from the reality that not all of the fans of this style have access to luxury cars. Additionally, kei-cars, vans and compacts in Japan have carved their own spot in this arena. Naturally, this sentiment is accepted by a pro-Japan fan base.

New cars are not less desirable but less accessible. Therefore, used cars provide enthusiasts an opportunity to enter this expensive niche while saving some of their paychecks for parts. The chart below can be slightly misleading since the cars from 2005 to the present are mostly the Scion xB. Cars that fit the “traditional” VIP theme are more costly, so more than three-quarters (76%) of the vehicles are pre-2004 models.

For more information regarding VIP style, the upcoming VIP Style Guide or to contribute your thoughts, contact Zack Krelle at

Source: SEMA Market Research & Information Center