Market Snapshot

Enthusiasts Shifting to Personalize Used Over New Vehicles

SEMA recently highlighted the market swing from new to used vehicles with industry experts continuing to lower their forecasts as new-vehicle sales fall for 2009. For example, in February, J.D. Power predicted 2009 total new-vehicle sales to reach a mere 10.4 million units, down 1 million units from its forecast of just a month prior.

And in late March, R.L. Polk released results from a survey showing that 70% of consumers plan to purchase a used vehicle for their next ride.

These same consumers surveyed also noted that they plan to keep their current vehicle longer—56.3 months compared to 49 from six years ago. So what does this all mean for SEMA members? Consumers are either holding onto the vehicle they currently own or, if they need to buy another vehicle, may plan to go used instead of new.

  Of those surveyed in 2008, many of the most popular vehicles were utility vehicles and performance cars.

SEMA has been following enthusiast trends for several years via its Automotive Lifestyles Study. Each year, subscribers of automotive enthusiast magazines, as well as visitors to several automotive websites and forums, are rigorously surveyed about automotive and specialty-equipment buying habits.

More than 3,000 enthusiasts have been surveyed each year and the percentage of enthusiasts that originally purchased their vehicle used has grown—72% of enthusiasts drove used cars in 2008, up from 67% in 2007 and 54% in 2005.

In 2009, the trend appears to be continuing. And while it is certainly an unfortunate circumstance for vehicle manufacturers, the good news is that opportunity remains for specialty-equipment businesses. In a recent survey of enthusiasts who purchased a used vehicle in 2008, 38% attributed their main motivation to being “cost/price.”

Of this group, nearly six out of 10 (57%) purchased custom parts or accessories. When asked how much money they had spent during the course of the year, the average amount was $1,375/person, just slightly below the traditional average. Even though consumers are shifting their spending away from new vehicles to used ones, their priorities for personalizing their vehicles appears to be unwavering. — SEMA Research & Information Center