SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 12, March 26, 2009

Used Market Can Provide New Customers

Decades ago, the traditional business of selling used cars was most well associated with dishonest car salesman pitching old rust-buckets in leisure suits to college students and high school teens. During the past two decades, dealerships began to understand the value of trade-ins and undertook efforts to revolutionize the perception.

When taking into account the current economy, improving certified programs and extended warranty options, the old preconceptions of the used-car market no longer apply. For 2009, J.D. Power and Associates forecast vehicle sales to drop to 10.4 million units, while R.L. Polk forecasts a slightly more optimistic 10.7 million units, down from nearly 17 million in 2005.

Manufacturers of custom parts and accessories need to understand the transition from a new-vehicle-driven market to one with a heavier ratio of used models. In a recent survey of its visitors, Cars.com reports that 32% of people who were originally looking to purchase a new car are now in the market to purchase a used car. Four months earlier, the percentage of people willing to do the same was 27%.

SEMA research shows that enthusiasts have proceeded to buy used cars more than they have in the past. Year over year, the ratio of used vehicles has climbed. Based on thousands of survey responses each year, the research shows that 72% of enthusiasts drove used cars in 2008, up from 67% in 2007 and 54% in 2005.

To SEMA members, this displacement of buyers from one market to another must be understood, especially if a product portfolio has relied on new vehicle purchases during recent years. According to data from Experian Automotive, more than 137 million 2000–2008 model-year vehicles are on the road. — SEMA Research & Information Center

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