SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 4, January 29, 2009

Nearly 2 Million Pickups Sold in 2008—Top Models and Products


Rough Country Suspension Toyota Tundra

Pickups finished off 2008 with 1,958,336 in total sales, declining 27% from 2007. Although gas prices during October–December recovered from the record-breaking highs of the summer, consumers are still shying away from big pickups.

To be fair to this waning segment, overall vehicle sales dropped 18% in 2008 as consumers held off new-vehicle purchases due to the tightening credit availability, unemployment and a host of other factors that have resulted from the current economic downturn.

During the fourth quarter of 2008, total pickup sales reached 394,245, with each model experiencing double-digit declines compared to 2007. While this may sound depressing to those in the business of making and selling products for new pickups, one thing to keep in mind is that enthusiasts—the subset of consumers who tend to continue personalizing their vehicles despite economic downturns—are purchasing used pickups or keeping the ones they currently own a bit longer.

Both scenarios paint a picture of an enthusiast looking to accessorize an older vehicle in order to improve performance, enhance utility or spruce up the look of the truck.

In fact, the latest SEMA Automotive Lifestyles Survey of enthusiasts showed that 64% of pickup owners purchased their vehicles used. More than a third (36%) of these enthusiasts said they purchased a bedliner in the past year, while a staggering 49% purchased an exhaust kit. Enthusiasts are aware that new products are always available to make their old pickups look new while performing better than when they first bought it.

Attendees of the 2008 SEMA Show were treated to hundreds of customized pickups dispersed throughout the Show floor. The most common customized pickup was the Ford F-Series—the number-one vehicle displayed by exhibitors at the SEMA Show—typically with suspension and wheel/tire upgrades.

Showgoers witnessed other highly modified Chevrolet, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan pickups. Manufacturers displayed their latest innovations in new products, showing enthusiasts and road warriors alike the personalization potential of their pickups.

Enthusiasts have taken notice of the new products put out by specialty-equipment manufacturers. Despite tightening consumer spending in 2008, automotive enthusiasts who drive pickups said that they spent $2,600 each, on average, over the past 12 months on custom parts and accessories.

Automotive enthusiast magazine subscribers and forum visitors were surveyed in late 2008, with 25% saying that they drive a pickup. The average age and household income of these pickup owners surveyed was 40 and $88,000, respectively. Although pickup sales were down in 2008, enthusiasts who currently own pickups are still personalizing them, giving rise to continued opportunity for pickup parts manufacturers.

For more original SEMA market research, click here.

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