Enthusiasts Plan to Keep, Modify Daily Drivers in 2009

Responses from SEMA’s latest enthusiast survey indicate their everyday vehicles, or “daily drivers,” are being held onto longer than expected; a claim made by 64% of the respondents. This, however, is likely to lead to an opportunity for SEMA members.

Eight out of 10 enthusiasts plan to keep their primary vehicle throughout 2009 instead of opting for a new model, and, as a result, they plan to accessorize their daily drivers. Their plans for modifying these vehicles depend heavily on their demographics.

Households throughout the United States commonly possess more than one car. Last year, Experian Automotive reported that households averaged 2.28 vehicles. Americans are among the highest consuming vehicle owners per capita in the world.

The Economist notes in its Pocket World of Figures 2009 that the United States has the highest road network in the world, and the United Nations World Statistics Pocketbook sites the United States as the leading country for vehicles owned (765 vehicles per 1,000 people). Their love affair with the automobile is deeply rooted in the ability and, in some cases necessity, to travel freely.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration shows that the total number of vehicle miles driven by U.S. drivers reached 2,656,188 million through November of 2008. Practical and personalized daily drivers fill a much beloved and necessary role.

From roof racks and equipment storage products to performance-enhancing and cosmetic upgrades, the correlation between miles traveled and sales of specialty equipment has been positive since SEMA began reporting industry statistics.

SEMA has gathered details about enthusiasts and their primary daily drivers. While many hobbyists own multiple vehicles, project cars or weekend racers, the vast majority own vehicles designed for regular commuting. Moreover, these vehicles are often treated to custom parts and accessories.

The average ages of vehicles reported by those in the study fell between 5–10 years on the road; roughly equating to model years 1999–2005. Not surprisingly, older, well-established enthusiasts own relatively newer models than their younger counterparts and vice versa.

Due to income, expenses and tastes, older consumers are more apt to purchase vehicles new, while teens and 20-somethings veer towards used. In practically every age block, roughly eight out of 10 people do not plan to replace their daily driver in the next 12 months.

Some cited financial reasons for the retention, but the overwhelming rationale was current satisfaction in the vehicle.

Age makes a difference in plans to customize these vehicles. The 16–30-year-old group has lofty intentions to accessorize and modify their vehicles, yet the 51 and older group is less optimistic. Only half of the people in this group plan to make purchases for their daily driver. Middle-aged respondents fell in between both extremes.

Some of these responses, however, run contrary to how the results were displayed for impressions to common statements.

Older enthusiasts claimed they were less likely to customize their vehicles this year. Coincidentally, they retained the impression that modifying their current vehicle would be a good alternative to purchasing a new one. They appear to be more conservative with their outlook.

Also noteworthy were the concessions made by the younger group. They anticipate being more active with their daily drivers while being more pessimistic about the additions of custom parts and accessories increasing the resale value of the vehicle.

For more original SEMA market research, click here.