Market Snapshot


Despite drops in vehicle sales, SEMA market research shows that consumers are still planning on making specialty-equipment purchases. In July, 23% of adult drivers surveyed said they plan on purchasing specialty equipment in the next three months, which is actually a slight increase of 1% from June’s survey. Every month SEMA surveys a random sample of 1,000 U.S. drivers, or “general consumers,” to measure current sentiment toward automotive specialty-equipment purchases. By product, 18% of those planning to buy specialty equipment said they plan to put their dollars toward wheels, tires and suspension components, 10% indicated racing and performance products, and 8% indicated specialty accessories/appearance products.

Automotive enthusiasts, a subset of “general consumers,” were surveyed late last year to provide further insight into specialty-equipment purchases and to show specifically which types of products are purchased most often. Approximately 3,800 enthusiasts were surveyed, and the results revealed the most popular wheels, tires and suspension, racing and performance, and specialty accessories/appearance purchases made by this group. In terms of performance, enthusiasts turn to air intake filter replacements for added horsepower and fuel economy. Tires were the most popular upgrade among wheel, tires and suspension purchases, but custom wheels were a close second. The most popular accessory/appearance product purchases turned out to be window tint, fulfilling consumers’ needs for added privacy, heat reduction and glare in their vehicles.

Consumers may shift in their vehicle preferences but, ultimately, they still plan to accessorize them. Although vehicle sales did drop last month compared to last year, the need to upgrade the appearance and performance of those vehicles purchased is actually moving in the positive direction. With the drops in vehicle sales, however, came a shift in the brands of vehicles consumers have purchased. The table below shows how each of the automakers fared in the month of July compared to the same time last year.

July marked the first time that consumers purchased more imported automobiles than domestic, according to a recent article by The Detroit News. Domestic automaker market share dropped to 48.1% in July, showing that consumer preference for new vehicles has shifted. The article reports that every major automaker experienced a drop in sales as high fuel prices and a slumping housing market have taken a toll on the U.S. economy.

“On an annualized basis, seasonally adjusted sales were running at an anemic 15.5 million vehicles, down from 17.2 million a year ago. Across the United States, the industry sold 147,000 fewer cars and trucks last month than in June and 185,000 fewer than last July,” The Detroit News article notes.

General Motors reported a 22.3% drop in sales while Ford was down 19.1% and the Chrysler Group fell 8.4%. On the import side, sales were down 7.3% at Toyota and 7.1% at Honda. Only Nissan managed to show a sales increase in July—1.7% compared to sales of last year.

So what does this all mean? Although consumers change their vehicle buying preferences—now buying more imports than in the past—they still have the need and desire to modify the appearance and performance of their vehicles.

Source: Terlep, Sharon. (August 1, 2007). “Foreign rivals outsell Big 3 for first time.” The Detroit News. Retrieved August 10, 2007 from; SEMA Research and Information Center.