Preliminary results from SEMA’s 2007 Automotive Lifestyles survey show that two out of five (41%) people surveyed show an interest in sport-compact vehicles. What kind of specialty-equipment products are these enthusiasts purchasing? The following is an excerpt from the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report, which lists the top products purchased by this group.
The Fast & the Furious movies controversially thrust the compact performance segment into mainstream view and many enthusiasts were put off by negative stereotypes attributed to the overzealous nature of the scene portrayed in the first two movies. Average citizens were harsher and the excessive “look at me” style of 2001—2004 suddenly became passé, if not taboo.
The days of mismatched and unpainted body kits, Franken-car part mixing, spray-painted interiors and questionable decal schemes have mostly passed. Nevertheless, enthusiasts remain interested in accessories and appearance products for their low-cost and visual impact. Alarms, shifters, pedals, window tinting, license plate frames, instrument gauges and lights remain enthusiast favorites, and the list of “hot” items people plan to buy include vertical doors, seats (front and rear), custom paint and a range of carbon-fiber pieces. Some of these parts are purely aesthetic, but the recent twist on performance favors items, such as racing seats and carbon-fiber parts, for their ability to improve the racing potential of a car and its driver.
In regard to body kits and exterior elements, the current disposition is moving towards subtle modifications that blend into the factory lines. Previously, there was an epidemic of aggressive kits that had little, if not a negative, effect on aerodynamics. Wild “fighter plane” styles and enormous rear wings have been replaced with a more conservative look.
Much of the influence has come from response to the criticism caused by mainstream coverage, but also by clean styles from Japan and Europe. European luxury sedans often incorporate modest body upgrades that are appealing for being simple and classy. Likewise, the “JDM” and VIP waves from Japan are inspiring a direction of visual minimalism. Consumers now demand parts with substantial functionality and prefer bolt-on features that have proven aerodynamic advantages. Bold packages are still popular and wide-body kits are on the rise, but their architectural range is less adventurous and more integrated.
Neon lights have been able to break the The Fast & The Furious curse and have become widely accepted on show cars. They were associated with this negative image but have survived the transition. Consumers note that they captivate attendees for a “second look” and prove especially useful since many of the mainstream shows tend to adopt a nightclub ambience with little facility lighting. Since their usage is primarily witnessed as props for shows, their street popularity is still unknown.
SEMA members can receive a complimentary copy of the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report as another benefit to being a SEMA member. Additional data, including performance-parts purchases, demographics and top vehicles purchased by this segment, can be found in this report, which may be downloaded by visiting www.sema.org/research.