Consumers Shift From Restyling to Off-Road and Street Performance Mods

Recent SEMA Performance Parts and Accessories Demand Index (PADI) results show that consumers are slowly shifting away from general personalization and heading toward a niche-focused theme for their customization plans. Over the past three months, more consumers are eyeing the hot-rod, off-road and street-performance markets compared to this time last year.

When consumers planning specialty-equipment purchases were asked what form their vehicle would take after customization, the most common answer over the last three months was “general personalization” (43%), followed by “street performance” (15%) and “restoration” (13%). Although the most popular form of planned modification is still restyling, more consumers are now deciding to head toward street-performance, hot-rod and off-road modifications.

After two months of growth, the SEMA PADI dropped 13 points in March, decreasing from 43 in February to 30 this month. This month, 8% of adult American drivers indicated that they had plans to purchase specialty-equipment products sometime within the next three months.

In March, 8% (index = 30) of American drivers said that they plan to purchase specialty equipment in the coming three months. Of these, the most common form of customization is “general personalization,” or what is commonly referred to as restyling.

Overall, about 6% of consumers said that they were likely to purchase wheels, tires and suspension components—about the same level as last month, but a drop from the 8% who made similar plans this time last year. About 5% said that they were likely to purchase racing and performance products this month, a 2% drop from February.

The biggest drop came from those planning accessory and appearance upgrades: 3% this month compared to 5% in February and 6% this time last year.

Over the last three months, on average, midsize cars (22%) were the most common target vehicles for enhancement or modification, followed by fullsize cars (17%), pickups (16%) and compact cars (12%). A list of the top-20 pickups registered in the United States is listed below. This time last year, pickups (22%), midsize cars (19%), large SUVs (14%) and fullsize cars (13%) were the most common targets for modification.

More than 51 million pickups were registered in the United States on September 9, 2008.

During the first quarter of 2009, consumers began to show some optimism about their future specialty-equipment purchase plans. Two of the three months showed increases in the SEMA PADI, followed by a drop in March. Specialty-equipment sales are seasonal, so fluctuations in consumer purchase plans are to be expected.

Last year, for example, the March PADI experienced a similar decline after a February spike. Nevertheless, results for the PADI for the first quarter of this year averaged four points higher than the last quarter of 2008, a sign that consumers are now thinking about opening up their wallets and spending money on their vehicles.

During January–March of this year, the PADI average came in at 36, a drop of 23 points from the same time last year, but higher that the late 2008 slump. — SEMA Research & Information Center