SEMA eNews Vol. 13, No. 11, March 18, 2010

$4 Gas Will Push Enthusiasts to Switch Cars, Cut Parts Spending

  gas prices
  If gas prices hit $4 or above, nearly three-quarters of enthusiasts will cut spending on parts and consider switching to a more fuel-efficient car, according to SEMA research.

Four, it turns out, is the magic number.

That’s the amount, in dollars, that 72% of auto enthusiasts will have to start paying for a gallon of gas before seriously considering the purchase of an alternative-fuel vehicle.

Unfortunately for the industry, it’s also the price threshold where 35% said they would cut spending on specialty parts and equipment, according to findings from a SEMA report using data gathered at the 2009 SEMA Show. In an effort to better analyze the tastes and preferences of today's auto enthusiasts, SEMA, in coordination with Ford, launched the Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program at the 2009 SEMA Show.

The program invited 527 enthusiasts, selected through a rigorous application process, to the second day of the Show and tasked them with using social media to broadcast their personal product and trend highlights of the Show. They also participated in SEMA's survey to better discern their buying habits.

Of those who said they would decrease spending on parts and accessories, the majority (15%) figured they would cut by 5% or less. Combined, however, 55% said they would cut by 15% or less. Racing enthusiasts were among the most immune to rising gas prices; 37% of them said they would only cut spending by 5% or less.

SUV/truck owners and off-roaders, on the other hand, said they’d feel higher gas the most. Half said they would reduce spending by 21% or more.

Still, there’s heartening news, as it seems what’s good for national fuel consumption is good for the specialty-equipment industry. An equal amount of enthusiasts (23%) who had already switched to, or added, a fuel-efficient vehicle to their personal fleet said the new addition either had no impact on their parts spending, or allowed them room to spend more.

Finally, bless 'em, the holdouts, those for whom price at the pump is of minor consequence: 15% said they would never own an alternative-fuel vehicle, while 23% never plan to buy even a fuel-efficient vehicle.

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