Market Snapshot

Sport-Compact Hybrids Coming Soon

A 2005 Toyota Prius by Barris Kustom Industries displayed in the Making Green Cool Zone at the 2008 SEMA Show.

With the price of gas quickly rising as soon as it fell and an overall emphasis on reducing dependence on fossil fuels, hybrids are quickly making their way to enthusiasts’ consideration for a future vehicle purchase. Around 22% of automotive enthusiasts surveyed say that they will “definitely” consider a gas-electric hybrid upon their next vehicle purchase.

Since these enthusiasts surveyed said they spent roughly $2,800 each, on average, on specialty equipment over the last year, future hybrid-buying enthusiasts could represent potential profits for specialty-equipment companies.

Automotive magazine subscribers and website/forum visitors were surveyed during August–September of last year, with 3,037 total responses collected. Their answers to the survey provide a look at how enthusiasts spend their money customizing vehicles and clues to future purchases, including whether they plan to purchase hybrids.

Recently, hybrids have lacked something that even the most obscure cars do not: tuning and dress-up parts availability. There have been a select handful of parts that have been marketed toward hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Honda FCX Clarity, but nothing ever specific to them. With this in mind, famed Japanese Honda tuner Mugen recently released its own set of tuning parts for the Japanese Honda Insight.

Mugen, known for building Honda NSXs used in Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC) racing, have stepped into the realm of tuning hybrids, according to Autoblog.

Keeping in mind the current ecological push to be green, Mugen started by choosing the Honda Insight hybrid, opting to leave the engine untouched. The company chose to create a performance oil filter and exhaust with a sport silencer kit, leaving all other engine components stock, retaining mpg and low emissions. What Mugen did decide to modify were the aerodynamics and handling components.

They started by creating a new front fascia for the car while integrating a new grille and lip spoiler, then creating new side skirts and a redesigned rear fascia. To complete the package and give the car a real sport-compact look, the company created a rear wing reminiscent of the RSX Type R spoiler.

On all four corners of the Insight, Mugen included a new set of dampers and springs, dropping the Insight 20 mm and the option of using either 15- or 16-inch wheels.

At the 2008 SEMA Show, several companies displayed modified versions of gas-electric hybrids, showing attendees that a market for these vehicles is alive and ready. Barris Kustom Industries, A123Systems-Hymotion and VIP Autosalon, for example, all showed customized versions of the popular Prius.

2007 Toyota Prius by A123Systems-Hymotion displayed in the Making Green Cool Zone at the 2008 SEMA Show.

2008 Toyota Prius by VIP Autosalon displayed in the Making Green Cool Zone at the 2008 SEMA Show.

The possible creation of performance-marketed products specifically developed for hybrids is a concept that SEMA members may look into to help not only push for a green environment, but also to help open and expand the tuning market. SEMA members have the opportunity to create more dress-up and tuning parts for hybrids, but they also have the possibility of creating parts that will further increase the fuel efficiency and help reduce the emissions of hybrids.  — SEMA Research & Information Center