With warmer temperatures and summer in full swing, DIY vehicle enthusiasts traditionally enjoy this season for making modifications and repairs to their vehicles. But the question that many manufacturers are asking this year is whether or not a struggling economy and volatile fuel market offset the traditional increases in summer sales of specialty equipment.

The answer? It depends what you’re selling.

Specialty-equipment sales have always been highly cyclical, with sales in winter months dropping to a mere 6% of the total yearly sales, while growing to 10% during the summer months. The latest research of vehicle enthusiasts who bought specialty equipment in 2007 repeats this historical pattern. 

Percentage of yearly sales of specialty equipment as determined by SEMA’s Automotive Lifestyle Survey (source: SEMA research).

Summer months and convenient weather promote DIY interests, and the car show season encourages enthusiasts to kick-start or continue their projects. Sales of certain equipment may be stifled by current economic conditions, but not all is lost.

“In our business, it is replacing parts as they go bad," Hamilton Burnett of General Parts Corporation tells Aftermarket Business. "A guy doesn’t replace his brakes until they go bad. I think the big industry that is going to be hurt is the recreation industry because the money you spend there is extra money, and now people don’t have extra money. However, our business overall remains pretty consistent."

For companies that service necessary repairs or general maintenance, this is a relatively comforting idea. But for the overall specialty-equipment market, SEMA members might not have the same summer opportunities they've enjoyed in the past. Enthusiasts are feeling the squeeze. They regularly comment that these types of unexpected hurdles only derail their plans temporarily, however, and through saving longer or cutting back on other expenditures, they make their hobby last.

For more specialty-market research and insight, visit