Market Snapshot


How has the sport-compact industry changed over the year? To help answer this question, SEMA turned to its Sport-Compact Council (SCC). The following is a short excerpt from the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report, which posts the results to this question.

SCC Questionnaire
Members of the SCC have deep-seated investments in the industry and extensive knowledge of the compact-performance market segment. They were approached to clarify this topic and called attention to important features other industry professionals need to understand. We posed this question to them:

Define sport compact. Have the characteristics of these vehicles changed over the years?

“Sport Compact: small car, small price and easy to modify. Yes, the characteristics have changed drastically from the big-winged stock cars of the past to well thought-out, faster, better-braking, all-around cars of today.” - John Bulson, Owner, So-Co MotorWorks

“Sport compact is more of a lifestyle vs. a set list of car makes and models. Sport Compact is a youth and social movement that revolves around cars as part of an individual's identity in his/her world in connection with peers. Civic, Evolution, STi, Mustang, Jetta, BMW 3 , Colorado, etc. compare to Nike, Adidas, BK, Tommy Hillfiger, FUBU, etc."  - Ed Burgy, Product Manager, CORSA Performance

“Yes, the sport compact segment has grown to include pretty much any vehicle that doesn’t have a V8 in it and is a sporty platform.” - Yoni Kellman, Marketing/Promotions, Exedy Globalparts Corporation

“Sport compact is not a definition of a type of automobile, but rather it is a term used to describe a lifestyle. Have the vehicles changed? Most definitely. The kids that started this movement in the late '80s, early '90s, have grown up, gone to college, married, got good jobs and are buying better cars (hence the current VIP car enthusiasm). But they can't go without customizing their new rides. That is the reason we as retailers and tuner shops have to adapt to the new trends or we are out of business.” - John E. Stanford, President Serenity Sound Performance

“There are new makes and models (Scion, Chevrolet Cobalt), and the cars have evolved over time, but for the most part these are still budget-minded, sporty, small-displacement cars typically with four- and six-cylinder engines.” - Mike Furlong, Operations Manager,

“The trend has been towards larger vehicles as vehicle manufacturers have upsized the compact vehicles. With the introduction of the new and exciting subcompact cars, there should be some change. The Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, to go with the Scion, as well as new offerings from Nissan and Mitsubishi, could change the market. It will be interesting since Ford, GM and Chrysler have worked hard to make inroads in the import-dominated scene, and now, potentially, the scene could change to a segment where the domestic brands have no contenders or may not even want to venture.” - Brian Gillespie, Marketing and Product Development, Hasport Performance Inc.

“Sport compact can be defined as 'modern musclecars.' A sport compact was originally a Honda with springs and an intake. It has evolved into vehicles from numerous manufacturers, including Toyota, Scion, Dodge, Subaru, Mitsubishi and GM, and has also opened its arms to the new Mustang and GTO that can be seen at drift competitions. The line between sport compact and "other" has become blurry.” - Matt Jensen, Operations Manager, Motovicity Distribution

“A small, 'sporty,' foreign-manufactured car. As the popularity of these vehicles grew, so too did the level of inclusion into what became increasingly more and more of a scene. It is no longer 'sport compact;' it is now 'lifestyle vehicles.'" - Don Redmon, Replika Maschinen Inc., owner

“The definition of the term 'sport compact' has changed over the years from primarily import cars to include cars from domestic manufacturers.” - Daryl Sampson, Sales and Marketing Manager, Advanced Clutch Technology

Consumer Opinion

In April of 2006, Formula Drift hosted the first round of its series in Long Beach, California. We surveyed some of the attendees for their view of this topic. When asked which of the following would be included in this scene, they submitted answers supporting the notion that consumers associate the market moving upstream to more expensive cars with high-performance characteristics.

SEMA members can receive a complimentary copy of the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report as another benefit to being a SEMA member. This data-intensive report is available by visiting

Source: SEMA Research & Information Center