In July, the SEMA Performance Parts and Accessories Demand Index (PADI) fell by seven points, or 6%, dropping from 42 in June to 35 last month. An index score of 35 translates to 9.5% of consumers planning to make a specialty-equipment product purchase sometime within the next three months.
Although economic concerns, high gas prices and the current credit crunch are causing consumers to scale back their purchase plans, about one out of every 10 adult American drivers (or approximately 10 million households) still indicated that they had plans to purchase specialty equipment.
Although planned spending is slowing down, consumers still want to personalize the cars and trucks they drive. The types of products consumers want differ from past months.
Around 6% of consumers said that they were likely to purchase wheels, tires and suspension components during the summer months, representing close to a 1% drop from June. Regarding racing and performance products, 5.7% of consumers surveyed said that they were likely to make a purchase. The percentage of consumers who plan to purchase accessory and appearance products dropped to 4.3% in July.
Each percentage is down from last year; however, the decline in those who want to buy racing and performance products is less dramatic than that of the latter two categories, possibly a sign that consumers are still looking to enhance the performance and fuel economy of their vehicles.
Looking closer at specific age groups, 18–24-year-old consumers said that they were more likely to purchase specialty equipment in the coming months.
Over the past three months, on average, midsize cars (20%) were the most common target vehicles for enhancement or modification, followed by pickups (18%), fullsize cars (16%) and compact cars (13%).
New pickup sales are down 24% for the first seven months of 2008 compared to last year, but the total number of pickups already on the roads is still among the highest category of vehicles registered, giving rise to their popularity for customization. R.L. Polk registration data shows that 12% of all vehicles on the road today are, in fact, a fullsize pickup.
Over the last three months, on average, car dealerships (28%) were the most popular purchase destinations among those planning to enhance their vehicles, followed by the Internet (19%), chain auto parts stores (12%) and independent parts stores (11%).
When specialty-equipment buyers were asked what form their vehicle would take after customization, this month the most common answer was “general personalization” (37%), followed by "street performance" (18%), “restoration” (12%), “off-road” (8%), “hot rod” (3%) and “compact performance” (2%).
Every month, SEMA commissions TechnoMetrica 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.
For more original SEMA market research, including a full version of the above summary and archived PADI reports, visit www.sema.org/research.