Market Snapshot

Automakers Cater to a CUV and Small-Car Market at the 2008 SEMA Show

Toyota Motor Sales displayed a custom Yaris model in its booth at the 2008 SEMA Show.

During the 2008 SEMA Show, automakers displayed increased attention to customized CUVs and small cars, demonstrating that despite the economic downturn and declines in SUV and light-truck sales, a healthy market of opportunities still exists for SEMA members.

"The OEMs displayed twice as many crossovers in their booths at this past SEMA Show compared to the 2007 Show," said Ty Michael, SEMA market research manager. "For example, we counted 17 CUVs in Ford's booth, whereas in 2007, we only saw five. As far as small cars, we saw nine in Honda's booth in 2008, but only counted six in the previous year."

CUVs and small cars are expected to decline by only 1% and 3%, respectively, this year, according to the 2008 fourth-quarter forecast by the automotive industry consulting firm AutoPacific. The SUV segment is expected to take the biggest hit, declining by another 26% in 2009, while pickup sales will drop by another 5% this year, much less than the declines experienced last year. Midsize car sales are expected to drop 6% this year.

"Enthusiasts have been attracted to the small-car segment for several years now, and the continued popularity of the sport-compact market helped small-car sales remain relatively stable last year," said Michael. "In fact, enthusiasts who owned small cars surveyed in 2008 said they spent about 13% more on performance parts and accessories, on average, than they did the year prior."

During the 2008 SEMA Show, automakers unveiled many industry-customized CUVs
and small cars, such as this Toyota Venza.

Automakers have recognized the shift in the new-vehicle market and the impact that today’s auto mix will have on the specialty-equipment industry. During the recent SEMA Show, automakers unveiled many industry-customized CUVs and small cars. Toyota displayed custom Venza and Yaris models within its booth, a possible indication of where the market will go for these vehicles.

"Several customized versions of all-new crossovers were displayed throughout the SEMA Show floor, such as the new Ford Flex, Toyota Venza, Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Traverse, adding excitement to the growing CUV segment while displaying to Showgoers the personalization potential of these vehicles," said Michael.

For more original SEMA research, click here.