Youth Market Wheel Purchase Plans Improve

Young consumers tend to be a hot target among specialty-equipment companies looking to sell products to new and lasting buyers. A testament to this is the trend that consumers aged 18–24 tend to be the one age group that consistently says they plan to purchase specialty-equipment in the coming three months, according to SEMA Performance Parts and Accessories Demand Index (PADI) results.

In the most recent survey, these consumers indicated a higher incidence in wheel, tire and suspension purchase plans last month compared to the same time last year.

Overall purchase plans by young consumers did drop when comparing December to January and year-over-year demand, but a higher number of 18–24 year-olds do plan to outfit their cars and trucks with new wheels, tires or suspension products.

Overall in January, the SEMA PADI improved seven points, or 22%, going from 29 in December to 36 this month. Last month, nearly 10% of adult American drivers (or approximately 10-plus million 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.

Close to 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 of 2008.

More than 5% of “mainstream consumers” said that they were likely to purchase racing and performance products in January, up from 3.7% in December. Nearly 6% said that 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% who indicated so in January 2008.

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 percent).

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%). — Ty Michael

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