Sales of new vehicles for 2008 are expected to drop below 15 million units. J.D. Power and Associates forecasts sales to reach 14.95 million, and AutoPacific predicts 14.8 million. This represents a 7.5%–8% decline compared to new-vehicle sales for 2007. High gas prices have hit the light-truck segment even harder—overall sales are expected to decrease by about 11.8%, whereas car sales are expected to drop by only 3.4%. Despite these declines, the specialty-equipment industry may not be too severely impacted by declines in new-vehicle sales.

Data from SEMA’s Automotive Lifestyles Study shows that only about one-third of enthusiasts purchased their vehicles new. The majority (67%) of those surveyed indicated that they purchased their vehicles, which they then accessorized, used. Back in 2005, only 46% of enthusiasts surveyed purchased their vehicles used. Even more compelling is the fact that used-vehicle owners spent 14% more on specialty equipment over the last year compared to new-vehicle owners—about $5,000 versus $4,400, respectively.

Performance parts heavily dominated the list of specialty-equipment parts purchased by used-vehicle owners. Performance air filters (45%), exhaust kits (43%), ignition wires (38%), tires (36%) and wheels (35%) were among the top products purchased. In addition to improving performance of their vehicles, used-vehicle owners were also well in tune to maintaining their vehicles. Performance lubricants (39%) and polishes/waxes (38%) also topped the list of specialty equipment purchased.

Automotive enthusiast magazine subscribers were surveyed during September–November of last year, and a total of 3,354 complete responses were collected. The average age and household income of those surveyed was 44 and $96,000, respectively.

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