SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 2, January 15, 2009

Fuel Prices Down, Consumers Reconsider Trucks and Big Three Offerings


The Dodge Ram was one of AutoTrader.com's most-researched vehicles in the last months of 2008.

Trucks and SUVs aren’t completely off consumers' radars, particularly now that gas prices have fallen to sub-$2 levels.

AutoTrader.com reports an increase in searches for pickups, certain SUVs and family sedans from October to the end of the year. In December, the most-researched vehicles included the Ford F-150 (+23%) and Dodge Ram (+43%).

The Honda Pilot, Odyssey and Accord and Chevrolet Impala also saw increased interest as consumers investigated dealership inventories. Despite slumping new-car sales, online traffic suggests that consumers are delaying purchases but continuing to window shop. These factors could signal a significant pent-up demand for the near-term.

Prices for these types of vehicles have been lower than traditional values due to saturated supplies and diminished demand. Dealerships have increased their incentive programs and cut prices on new vehicles to reel in customers, driving down the price of used vehicles in the process.

Additionally, used-vehicle dealerships are facing the same economic characteristics and have felt the pressure to lower prices. Shoppers have become less impulsive about new-vehicle purchases and are looking for pre-owned options.

Shoppers are also increasingly looking to American options in their car purchases. A new Kelley Blue Book (KBB) study indicates that American consumers are growing more aware of the perils of domestic automobile manufacturers and concerned for their survival.

KBB asked consumers about their preferences for country of origin in the products they buy. For general purchases, three out of four shoppers claimed to prefer American-made products.

Over half (51%) of the respondents try to source American-made products if the items are competitive, while 14% are willing to endure inconvenience for American products. Six percent shop exclusively for domestic items.

Buyers have similar patriotic sentiments when vehicle shopping. Among consumers to whom country of origin is a key concern, 33% preferred American manufacturers. Twelve percent preferred Japanese cars, while 5% opted for German engineering.

While these sentiments reflect only a fraction of those surveyed, nearly 90% of all respondents have a domestic vehicle on their list of considerations.

For more original market research, visit www.sema.org/research.

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