Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2002   by Auto Service World

Knowledge Building: The New Performance Business

It may not seem like it at first blush, but there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the hot rodders of the 1950s and the sport compact speed racer of today.

California dreaming aside, most sport compact performance enthusiasts are not as well heeled as the Hollywood street racers of “The Fast and The Furious.” They just want to be. They’re 18 to 24 and will spend every penny to feed their enthusiasm.

As a counterperson–who may or may not have youth on your side–you may find yourself in charge of ensuring that the right product mix is on the shelf to cater to today’s hot rodder.

Among the hot items: wheels and tires, body kits, wings and graphics, exhaust products, suspension modifications, induction systems, performance engine parts, ignition systems, nitrous systems, and elaborate sound and security systems.

The hands-down application of choice for most is the Honda Civic, but its cousin the Acura Integra is also a big attraction for some of the slightly wealthier performance enthusiasts. You should also not forget the less fleet of foot but still popular Honda Accord. Other popular subjects for modification are the Eagle Talon, Toyota Celica and Supra. On the North American side, DaimlerChrysler’s Neon and Ford’s Focus are both strong candidates.

Still, if the responsibility falls to you to start or develop a performance and accessories category, you should follow a few simple rules:

1) Get out of the store. You will never learn the true potential of the market if you rely only on the people you work with or the customers currently walking in. Never assume you’re informed.

2) Read all the consumer magazines, but do so with a critical eye. Don’t mistake hype for market popularity.

3) Get a copy of “The Fast and the Furious.” This B-movie has caused a groundswell of popularity in sport compact performance. Understand what the fuss is all about.

4)Sport compact performance is hitting big, but don’t overlook the traditional performance guys. Many of these staples of performance from Detroit still command major market dollars.

5)Visit other stores in your market, both performance and traditional automotive. Look at what they’re selling and what they’re charging.

6)Visit the local plaza, mall, or wherever young performance enthusiasts choose to congregate. There is no substitute for seeing with your own eyes.

7)Contact performance parts suppliers for advice and information on supply programs. This will help you decide what type of products, programs, and investment options are available.

8)Consider the competition. Do you want to hit the same market? Is it big enough? Or do you want to pick a smaller but under-served niche?

9)Make a sober marketing decision about what segments you want to approach. Consider your resources, your location, and the level of commitment you are comfortable with.

10) Pick a program and stick to it. Market hard and be visible, but realize that it may take a while to build awareness of your offering.

Ultimately, those businesses which have made a strong commitment to a market and are visible participants in enthusiast events will prevail. Their commitment is appreciated by the community and they return the favor with their dollars.

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