In June, the SEMA Performance Parts and Accessories Demand Index (PADI) fell by 4 points, or 7%, declining from 46 in May to 42 last month. Although economic concerns, high gas prices and the current credit crunch are causing consumers to scale back their purchase plans, 11% of adult American drivers (or approximately 11 million households) still indicated that they had plans to purchase specialty-equipment products sometime within the next three months.

Although planned spending is slowing down, consumers still want to personalize the cars and trucks they drive. The types of products consumers want also differs from past months.

Around 7% of consumers said that they were likely to purchase wheels, tires and suspension components during the summer months, a 1% drop from May. Six percent of consumers surveyed said they were likely to purchase either racing and performance products, or accessory and appearance products.

Each percentage is down from the same period last year. The decline in racing and performance, and accessory and appearance products is less dramatic than that for wheels, tires and suspension products. Looking closer at specific age groups, 18- to 24-year old consumers said that they were more likely to purchase specialty-equipment in the coming months, as noted in the chart below.

Over the last three months, on average, pickups (24%) were the most common target vehicles for enhancement or modification, followed by full-size cars (17%), compact cars (15%) and midsize cars (11%). New pickup sales are down 30% for the first half of 2008 compared to last year, but the total number of pickup trucks already on the roads is still among the highest category of vehicles registered. R.L. Polk registration data shows that 12 percent of all vehicles on the road today are full-size pickups.

The Internet (22%) was the most popular purchase destination among those planning to enhance their vehicles over the last three months, followed by car dealerships (17%), independent parts stores (16%) and chain auto parts stores (11%). When specialty-equipment buyers were asked what form their vehicle would take after customization, the most common answer this month was “general personalization” or restyling (57%) followed by “restoration” (13%), “street performance” (9%), “off-road” (7%), “compact performance” (4%) and “hot rod” (3%).

Every month, SEMA commissions TehnoMetrica Market Intelligence to survey a random sample of consumers in order to provide the above data, and this month’s report is based on 896 nationwide interviews with adult American drivers. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3%.

Forecasting how specialty-equipment sales will fare in the coming months gives the industry an upper hand in planning their own inventories and strategies.

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