Market Snapshot

Study Finds New-Vehicle Sales to Peak in 2014

 John Waraniak
 As the auto industry restructures, SEMA member companies are uniquely placed to capitalize on new opportunities, says SEMA VP of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak.

The number of vehicles on the road is expected to increase steadily in the future, according to a recent Center for Automotive Research (CAR) report. The study, titled "The Major Determinants of U.S. Automotive Demand: Factors Driving the U.S. Automotive Market and Their Implications for Specialty-Equipment Suppliers," finds that new vehicles sales will hit bottom this year at 10–11 million units, and peak to 16.8 million in 2014.

Commissioned by SEMA, the report is an in-depth analysis of the economic drivers of the U.S. automotive market and their implications for SEMA.

"There is no more normal as the industry restructures and transforms,” says John Waraniak, vice president of vehicle technology at SEMA. “It will be a new day and a new game with new rules. I'm confident there will be many new opportunities for SEMA members to make cars go faster and farther as the auto industry restructures."

The study marks the third and final report in a multi-phase project designed to create business strategy guideposts for SEMA members. It begins by describing recent trends in several short-term drivers for the automotive market, followed by an investigation of the key long-term factors, and concludes with a CAR-generated U.S. sales forecast through 2020.

While the report focuses on describing macro-economic trends in the automotive sector, where appropriate, implications for specialty-equipment suppliers are explored and presented.

As stated in the report: "It is a pivotal time for automotive business decision-makers to understand the ways in which the economy will be different following its recovery, as well as the ways in which it may have changed permanently. Understanding economic trends and realizing the implications is essential for strategic business and scenario planning."

The study concludes a unique project in which SEMA commissioned the highly acclaimed Center for Automotive Research to help SEMA members identify trends and adjust to potential market changes. “Phase I—The Specialty Equipment Company of the Future: Guideposts for Technology Forecasting and Strategic Planning” identifies strategic challenges for SEMA and its member companies in the mid-term (three to seven years).

“Phase II—Powertrain Forecast and Analysis: What is Coming and What Are the Implications for the Specialty Equipment and Performance Aftermarket Industry” addresses the important challenges associated with advanced and alternative powertrains. The vehicle demand study marks the third and final phase of the project.

The three reports together give SEMA members unprecedented access to insight on upcoming trends, as well as thoughts on how those trends may affect the SEMA market.

For example, the reports examine how powertrain technology is rapidly evolving. "Gasoline engines will become much more efficient, hybrids will increase in popularity, and plug-in electric vehicles will begin to reach the consumer," said Brett Smith, Director, Automotive Analysis Group, at CAR. "And SEMA members will have the chance to make these great powertrains even better."

Waraniak agrees that the future appears to have huge opportunities for SEMA members.

"Because SEMA companies are innovative, quick, small and nimble, they have the agility to build low volumes profitably, and move in and out of new markets more quickly," he says.

A panel of industry experts will elaborate on the reports during special briefings at the 2009 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The following seminars are open to all SEMA Show attendees:

DRIVING GREEN: MPH+MPGe: Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

DRIVING CONNECTED: Built-in, Brought-in and Beamed-in: Integrating Automotive and Consumer Electronics—Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

DRIVING SAFE: ESC Systems and Aftermarket Performance–Thursday, November 5, 2009 - 9:30 a.m.12:00 p.m.

Information about all three sessions and about the SEMA Show is available at

For more information about the SEMA-CAR reports, or to order a copy (free to SEMA members; $99 each, non-members), visit