Although automotive enthusiasts consistently tell us that they are buying their vehicles used and accessorizing them, there is still a steady percent that are buying new vehicles. Over the past three years, on average about 61% of enthusiasts surveyed indicated that the vehicle for which they spend money customizing was purchased used.

Dubbed the Automotive Lifestyles survey, each year SEMA asks subscribers of automotive enthusiast magazines about their vehicle accessorizing habits. These consumers are generally referred to as “enthusiasts,” a subset of mainstream consumers. With about two out of every five automotive enthusiasts purchasing their vehicles new, predicting what vehicles these consumers will purchase in the coming months gives specialty-equipment companies a tool for planning their own market strategy.

Recent WardsAuto vehicle production data shows that for the next quarter of this year, automakers plan to build 4,015,900 new vehicles in North America, a drop of 3% from the 4,141,600 manufactured during the same period last year. This breaks down to 1.7 million cars, a 2.2% gain, and nearly 2.3 million light trucks, a 6.6% drop from last year.

Looking further down the road, total 2008 light-vehicle sales are expected to drop compared to last year. AutoPacific predicts that close to 7.7 million cars will be sold in the United States this year, a 1% drop from 2007. On the light-truck side, they forecast about 8.1 million will be sold this year, 3% less than last year. The new-vehicle market seems to be shifting more toward small cars (3% growth, 2.7 million forecasted to sell in 2008) and crossover utility vehicles (CUV) (11% growth, 3.1 million forecasted to sell in 2008). AutoPacific says both segments are poised for growth.

Currently, small-car owners who took the Automotive Lifestyles Survey are geared toward enhancing performance. The top specialty-equipment parts purchased were performance tires, air intakes, exhausts, polish, and performance fluids. For CUV owners, performance add-ons took a backseat to polish, floor mats, alarm systems, license plate frames, performance tires and window tint—the top modifications performed by this group. Because these two vehicle segments are expected to grow through 2008, their likelihood to impact the specialty-equipment industry also grows.

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Source: SEMA Research & Information Center