The specialty-equipment market saw sales surge once again en route to another record-setting year.
Sales of specialty-equipment parts in 2021 reached US$50.9 billion — up more than 6 per cent (US$47.9 billion) from the year before, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association.
In its 2022 SEMA Market Report, the group pegs that growth was driven by strong consumer interest in working on their car or truck. It found that more than four in five specialty-equipment consumers reported spending as much, if not more, time working on their personal vehicles as they did during 2020.
As in-person shopping restrictions eased throughout 2021 following the COVID-19 outbreak, consumers were more comfortable shopping in-store to buy specialty-equipment parts. SEMA found about a 50-50 split between purchases done online versus in-store. In 2020, about 54 per cent of purchases were made online. Pre-pandemic, 45 per cent of shopping was done online. The association expects more normalization of numbers this year.
Modifications to pickup trucks remain a driving force for the industry. In the report, Gavin Knapp, director of market research at SEMA, noted that one-third of parts and accessory sales were for pickup mods.
“The shift toward light-truck sales continues in the new-vehicle market, and those pickup and utility vehicles are great platforms for accessorization,” he said.
That said, performance modifications are also a significant market driver as people look to add more power to their vehicles.
“Most people can’t afford a Lamborghini or even a Hellcat. Still, this industry helps anyone boost their own car toward those lofty goals,” Knapp said.
“Even amid all the disruptions, people found the opportunity to do something fun with their cars. That’s what makes this industry so cool.”
What this shows is people “love their cars” and there is a strong car culture still around, he added in the report. People do enjoy accessorizing their cars.
“Enthusiasts have been taking advantage of these strange times to do what they love: work on their cars and trucks,” Knapp said. “Even amid all the disruptions, people found the opportunity to do something fun with their cars. That’s what makes this industry so cool.”
Of course, there are challenges ahead. Most notably, the supply chain segment still poses headwinds as issues are expected to continue into 2023 and may lead to softer sales going forward. And other factors are starting to creep in.
“Inflation has risen across the board, as gas prices have shot up and companies in our industry feel the need to raise prices amid increased costs,” Knapp reported. “Consumer confidence has remained down, as a pandemic, politics, and supply issues have weighed on their minds. Some economists see a slowdown coming this year.”