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During the SEMA National Education Conference, April 10–11 in Nashville, Motor Age interviewed SEMA Vice President of Market Research and Information Jim Spoonhower about the specialty-equipment industry’s expansion.

"The big thing is a shift from an industry that is driven by enthusiasts to one that is driven by everyday consumers,” Spoonhower said. “[SEMA] member companies are accustomed to marketing for enthusiasts and their response to the message and the product. With mass customization, [members] may have to find new message points and ensure that the product is just right for non-enthusiast customers."

Specialty-equipment companies can profit from mass customization in much the same way as several consumer products that allow the end user to put their name, picture or logo on the final product. Performance parts and accessories can be marketed similarly.

For example, manufacturers could structure a way to custom order the chrome tubing on a cold-air intake so that consumers can get the name of their car club etched on the product prior to being shipped. The costs of integrating mass customization into the specialty-equipment market is likely to be outweighed by the added mainstream consumer base acquired, which is becoming an even bigger part of the industry today compared to years past.

Mainstream consumers are modifying their vehicles with aftermarket parts more than ever, and this change has helped industry sales more than double over the past decade, according to SEMA research. During this same period, the appearance and accessories segment has grown to a 13% market share. Mainstream consumers are a growing part of the industry and are not only turning to the industry for appearance products, but also mobile electronics and other car customizing options.

More specialty-equipment manufacturers have taken notice of the growth experienced by the GPS market, for example. In the 2007 SEMA Show New Products Showcase, manufacturers introduced 192% more GPS products than at the 2006 Show.

For more industry insight, visit the SEMA Research and Information Center online at