Market Snapshot

Top Products That Enthusiasts Plan to Buy First in 2009

SEMA Show New Product: Gibson Exhaust - 2009 Dodge Challenger Cat Back System

Enthusiasts continue to dismiss gloomy economic conditions with their commitment to their hobby. Aside from casual shoppers, many dedicated enthusiasts are upholding their plans to purchase custom parts and accessories in the new year.

In its latest effort to capture enthusiast-planned spending habits, SEMA launched a survey that tapped into the minds of nearly 2,000 active enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds to gauge their goals and prospects for the coming months. Enthusiasts who subscribe to automotive magazines, visit automotive websites and frequent automotive forums were polled earlier this month.

The products they intend to purchase first in 2009 do not stray far from the common formula; they mirror traditionally popular items. Exhaust-component upgrades and cold-air intake systems remain at the top of the list. However, some differences do exist in product choices and by consumer demographic.

For example, custom wheels are appearing slightly higher on the list than usual, especially for the 31–51-year-old crowd. From their responses, enthusiasts in different age groupings are expecting to have distinct product portfolios.

Turbochargers and body kits appear higher on the lists of younger consumers than their older counterparts. These differences have helped shape each market niche in the past and could potentially do so in the future.

For example, those who own and modify vehicles with smaller displacement engines—as made popular in the compact-performance crowd—rely on forced induction more often than those with six- or eight-cylinder engines. Recent SEMA enthusiast surveys indicate 20.4% of four-cylinder, 10.56% of six-cylinder and 5.0% of eight-cylinder engines had been turbocharged. 

SEMA-member AutoBahn Designs (ABD) installation center and product showroom.

Where enthusiasts plan to purchase these products also indicate discrepancies between age groups. Younger enthusiasts, as stated many times in the past, plan to look towards online merchants for product information and sales. They favor this method more than any other group. Interestingly, their second choices are custom shops or installers.

Brick-and-mortar establishments might consider taking note of this perception; SEMA-hosted focus panels have illustrated that an online presence increases awareness and communication between consumers and retailers, thus leading to opportunities to engage larger audiences.

Older generations of enthusiasts plan to dive into mail-order catalogs, while younger ones seem less interested in printed sources, live events and other traditional outlets. Perhaps the availability of product catalogs geared towards older demographics influences their bias.

For more original SEMA market research, click here.