Millions of tax-paying consumers have began receiving their federal tax rebate checks, and according to a survey sent to automotive enthusiasts last week, 18% said that they plan to purchase custom parts and accessories for their vehicles. The consumers surveyed were current subscribers to automotive enthusiast magazines. The average age and income of these respondents were 46 and $97,000, respectively. 

A total of 1,032 enthusiasts answered the survey. The highest percentage of these consumers noted that they plan to pay off credit card bills (21%), followed closely by those that plan to put their rebate check money in the bank (20%).

Other survey findings include:
•    Of those who plan to buy specialty equipment, the top “first” accessory choices were custom wheels (8%), exhaust kits (7%), cold air intakes (4%), engine performance tuners (3%), and custom suspension parts (3%).

•    For consumers 30 years old and younger, 29% indicated that they plan to purchase specialty equipment and 22% indicated that they plan to put the money in the bank. The most popular specialty-equipment product this group will purchase first: custom wheels (12%).

•    10% of the entire sample surveyed plan to use their rebate money to pay for everyday items, such as groceries and clothing; 8% toward a vacation; 2% for home improvements; 2% to purchase home electronics, such as big-screen televisions; and 19% indicated “other.” These “other” write-in responses included regular bills, new furniture, college tuition, fixing their vehicles and off-setting the higher costs of gasoline and diesel.

The increasing cost of gasoline is affecting whether enthusiasts purchase custom automotive parts and accessories. When asked whether current fuel prices have caused them to delay buying specialty equipment for their vehicles, 50% said “yes.” Only 33% of survey respondents gave the same answer two months ago when the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $0.35 less than the current average. 

Jeff Lawson, an enthusiast from North Carolina, remarked: “I am a car guy, but with rising fuel costs, grocery costs and high unemployment rates, I have altered my automotive spending habits.”

Enthusiasts recognize that certain specialty-equipment products are beneficial in order to mitigate the effects of higher fuel costs, however. “Right now anything that helps on gas mileage is sounding pretty good," noted Darin Tenney from Oklahoma.

Consumers want specialty-equipment products that help to increase fuel economy, and many products manufactured have been shown to actually enhance fuel economy along with performance gains. So companies that effectively communicate this message to their customers could profit from upcoming tax-rebate spending.  

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