SEMA PADI: Aging Pickups Spur Demand for Accessories

Ford F-150 at SEMA Show
The average age of pickups on the road today is 12 years old. Owners are looking to the specialty-equipment industry to keep them looking and performing well.

In January, the SEMA Aftermarket Product Demand Index (PADI) improved 7 points, or 22%, going from 29 in December to 36 this month.

This month, nearly 10% of adult American drivers (or approximately 10-million-plus households of mainstream consumers) indicated that they had plans to purchase aftermarket products sometime within the next three months. Notable improvements in the PADI among several demographics are highlighted in the table below.

While the increase in the latest PADI score may provide some relief to specialty-equipment companies used to hearing nothing but bad news lately, not all segments are receiving the same attention among mainstream consumers. Survey respondents said that they plan to purchase accessories and performance products more so than the previous month, but the same is not true for those planning wheel, tire and suspension purchases.

Nearly 4% of consumers said that they were likely to purchase wheels, tires and suspension components, down from nearly 5% in December and 8.4% in January 2008.

More than 5% of “mainstream consumers” said they were likely to purchase racing and performance products in January, up from 3.7% in December. Nearly 6% said they were likely to purchase accessory and appearance products last month, up from 4.2% in December and even slightly up from the 5.4% that indicated so in January 2008.

One possible reason is that consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, and the need to improve the appearance and comfort of aging vehicles could boost demand for accessories. Analysis of Experian Automotive’s latest registration data shows that the median model year of all pickups registered in the United States is 1997.

Given that the typical pickup on the road today is 12 years old, owners of these vehicles are looking to the specialty-equipment industry to supply accessories and performance products to enhance their older pickups.

Over the last three months, on average, 19% of consumers planning to buy accessories owned a pickup, second only to midsize cars (25%) as being the most common target vehicles for enhancement or modification. Next in line were compact-car owners (14%) and fullsize car owners (12%).

Also, car dealerships (26%), on average, were the most popular purchase destinations among those planning to enhance their vehicles over the last three months, followed by the Internet and chain auto parts stores (16%, respectively) and independent parts stores (14%).

When aftermarket buyers were asked what form their vehicle would take after customization, this month the most common answer was “general personalization” (49%), followed by “restoration” (15%), “hot rod” (10%) and “street performance” (7%).

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