U.S. consumers purchased an unprecedented $38.11 billion of specialty automotive products in 2007, despite a lag in the general U.S. economy. That figure is a 3.78% increase from 2006 to 2007, and it represents the 17th consecutive year of growth.

Comprehensive details and information are included in the annual SEMA Market Study, one of several industry-specific research reports produced by SEMA. The 41-page study includes details on nine market niches, various market segments, as well as an analysis of where consumers are purchasing products.

“Industry sales have grown at rates that are two to three times of what might have been expected,” says SEMA Vice President of Market Research and Information Jim Spoonhower, who points out that the automotive specialty-equipment market has averaged an 8% growth rate over the last 10 years. That’s nearly twice the annual rate of 4.1% for the total aftermarket.

Spoonhower notes, however, that the 2007 increase is a significantly smaller increase than what the industry has had in recent years.
“As we look over the recorded history of industry numbers, we find only three periods of soft sales growth,” said Spoonhower. “The first was in 1991, when the industry was hit doubly hard by a soft economy and the first Gulf War. The second came 10 years later in 2001 when the industry saw an increase of less than 4%. We’re now entering our third period of soft sales, with an increase of 3.78%—a smaller increase compared to what the industry is used to.”

Given the overall U.S. economy, SEMA has anticipated a slowdown and is prepared to help its members persevere. At its annual State of the Association meeting held earlier this year, SEMA’s leadership encouraged its members to look to the association during tough economic times.

“SEMA can help companies who are looking for high-quality, affordable training solutions, or those who are struggling with complex vehicle technology and new vehicle models,” said SEMA Vice President of Events and Communications Peter MacGillivray. Free educational programs, legislative support and export assistance are a few of the programs that MacGillivray cites as easy, affordable options for expanding one’s market.

“The typical SEMA-member company is an enthusiast who enters the industry because of a love and passion for automobiles,” said MacGillivray. “These companies typically have small staffs and operate on lean budgets. SEMA’s programs and services serve as an extension to their staffs and fill a vital void.”

Comprehensive details on the size of the automotive specialty-equipment market and other industry trends can be found in the June 2008 issue of SEMA News. Articles from the publication are available online at