SEMA Show Highlights

Classic Cars Meet Modern Markets at SEMA360

By Mike Imlay

Matt Kennedy
SEMA Market Research Manager Matt Kennedy
Gavin Knapp
SEMA Market Research Director Gavin Knapp

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Classic cars and trucks represent a vital piece of the aftermarket, but understanding opportunities in the space poses some unique challenges. SEMA360 attendees got a sneak peek at the latest market research surrounding vintage vehicles and their accessorization, thanks to a Wednesday seminar presented by SEMA Market Research Director Gavin Knapp and SEMA Market Research Manager Matt Kennedy.

Entitled “Classic Cars, Modern Markets,” the seminar aimed to arm attendees with the latest data on market sizing, consumer demographics, their purchasing habits and vehicle usage, and even the shifting definition of what constitutes a vintage model.

“We’re talking about a significant volume of cars still driving around, still being cherished and loved by their owners, and of course that means they need to buy parts from our industry,” said Knapp. “Obviously classic vehicles are a great, great platform for accessorization and modification. We estimate that last year, 2019, consumers spent almost $1 billion buying accessories and customization parts for older cars.”

Kennedy also presented some of the most noteworthy takeaways from a still-unreleased SEMA research report on the market:

  • First, retail automotive chains account for most consumer purchase, but there is untapped opportunity for independents as well.
  • Although the consumer demographic skews older, a younger customer base is steadily emerging. Moreover, consumers in this space may research online, but prefer to purchase from retail outlets where they can have meaningful conversations about their vehicles and the parts they seek.
  • Most of all, the demographic see their vehicles as drivers to be enjoyed and shown off on the road. Alongside full restorations, the restomod trend continues to grow.
  • Once dominated by ’60s and mid’‘70s musclecars, the vintage category is now expanding to include late ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s vehicles. There is an especially interesting trend toward trucks as well, notably among younger enthusiasts.

The full seminar can be viewed on SEMA360.

This session represents just a few of the many educational opportunities being served up at SEMA360, which continues through Friday, November 6. The SEMA Week event also offers exclusive manufacturer-buyer connections, industry networking, new-product and technology introductions, project vehicle builds and more. Additional details about the innovative e-marketplace can be found at