Last summer's street-racing flick ``The Fast and the Furious'' provided many with a quick though heavily slanted primer on the who's and what's of the compact vehicle performance market.
Research conducted by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) indicates that Honda vehicles-in particular the Civic, Accord and Integra models-comprise 45.2 percent of the compact performance industry.
A number of other vehicle makers have recognized this market and have started to produce and market cars designed to grab the attention of these consumers, according to SEMA, and by re-emphasizing their vehicles attributes or target marketing, Honda's competitors are going to threaten Honda's lead.
The reasons given for selecting a compact performance vehicle include the following: looks, 64.9 percent; quality, 57.9 percent; price, 46.7 percent; handling, 40.9 percent; overall performance, 38.8 percent; brand name, 38.2 percent; powerful/fast engine, 31.9 percent; easy to work on, 30.5 percent; and number of available parts, 23.4 percent.
SEMA said 85.4 percent of the vehicles are used for daily driving; street performance tallies 31 percent of usage; 22.7 percent is for show; and 16.9 percent are for drag racing.
The association defines the ``compact performance niche'' as the products that are used to modify small, medium and some sports cars with small displacement engines (typically less than 3.0 liters and more commonly four cylinders). These products include engine dress-up kits, turbo or superchargers, cams, nitrous, wheels and tires, suspension, paint, graphics, body kits, roll cages, gauges, seat belt pads and race pedals. Exterior modifications are the largest product category.
Of owners modifying the exteriors of their vehicles, 35.8 percent changed the tires and wheels, SEMA found, while 33.4 percent planned to do so.