Business Tools

Retail Spending on Cars and Car Parts Surpasses All Other Sales

By Ashley Reyes

Market ResearchAutomotive is the single biggest retail segment in the United States, accounting for 20% (more than $1.2 trillion) of retail spending in 2020, according to the new “Retail Trends” report from SEMA Market Research.

The report highlights U.S retail spending and includes new findings on the retail side of the specialty-equipment market, including specialty-automotive shopping behavior and trends.

Retail is a huge part of the U.S. economy, representing more than $6.2 trillion in 2020. While online sales are growing, it is a small slice of the total—increasing to roughly 14% of total retail sales, up from 11% in 2019.

To help businesses understand automotive aftermarket retail trends by product and retail channel, as well as consumer and shopping behavior, the SEMA report contains additional findings, including:

  • The specialty-automotive aftermarket is ahead of the curve on online sales, with just over half of the $47.89 billion spent on specialty parts in 2020 going through online retail channels. SEMA expects that the share of online retail sales will level off, then return to its historical trend of gradual growth over the next couple years.
  • In the longer term, retailers should keep an eye on how the vehicle population evolves. Light trucks, including pickups, SUVs and CUVs, are expected to represent 80% of new vehicles sold through 2028.
  • Alternative-fuel vehicles (e.g., hybrid and electric) are a small but growing share of new vehicles sold, expected to account for 25% of new vehicle sales by 2028 and 45% by 2035.
  • In recent years, specialty-automotive consumers have most-commonly bought parts in a “mixed-mode” fashion, i.e., buying both in-person and online, with smaller portions favoring exclusively in-person or exclusively online.
  • For many consumers, high-performance chemicals along with specialty wheels and tires represent the “gateway drugs” that can lead to more ambitious modifications to the vehicle’s appearance, performance, and handling.

For more data on the state of U.S retail and retail in the automotive specialty-equipment market, download the 2021 SEMA Retail Trends Report for free today at