American car owners' appetite for automotive specialty equipment continued to grow last year despite the domestic economy's general malaise, according to data generated by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
Retail sales of products such as appearance accessories, racing and performance and handling equipment increased 4.2 percent last year, to $25.9 billion, SEMA said, with appearance accessories-items like truck bed liners, sunroofs, graphics, etc.-accounting for the lion's share (56.8 percent).
Spending for handling equipment such as brakes, steering, suspension products and wheels and performance tires totaled $6.3 billion, or 24.2 percent of the market, SEMA said. Investment for performance and racing products, such as headers, cams and the nitrous oxide used to give cars a power boost, was $4.9 billion.
The accessory and performance products market has grown continually since 1988, SEMA said, except for 1991 when the atmosphere created by the Gulf War precipitated a 3.7-percent drop in custom auto parts and equipment sales.
The make-up of the market has shifted, however, as spending for daily-driver accessories has increased to the current 56.8 percent from 42.5 percent in 1990, according to SEMA.
Spending for wheels, tires and suspension products stayed at approximately one-fourth of the market, SEMA said, ranging from 26.9 percent to the 2001 level of 24.2 percent.
Light trucks (pickups, vans and sport-utility vehicles) accounted for three-fourths of consumer spending on specialty equipment last year, the Diamond Bar-based association said, with domestic truck products accounting for 65 percent and products for import light trucks taking 10 percent. Import car products represented 18 percent of the market and domestic car products the remaining 7 percent.