by Amy Antenora Editor
AKRON , OH — This is the time of year that major corporations, automotive or otherwise, unveil new toys and new technologies for consumers. Keeping with that theme, for this week’s Ask the Industry we asked several aftermarket professionals well versed in the performance and accessories market what they anticipate will be the hot item(s) in the performance segment this year.
Products that improve fuel economy and efficiency will continue to be top sellers this year, according to those we spoke with. Two of the industry professionals we asked both predicted that diesel products will be big.
“I would expect that diesel performance in general will be the hot item for the performance segment this year,” said Jim Spoonhower, CAE, vice president, Market Research, SEMA. “Lately, U.S. consumers have been having more positive experiences with diesel powered vehicles. They are finding out about the increased miles per gallon with diesel and are realizing that increased performance is also possible with these power plants. In addition, the car companies have been increasing the number of light trucks they offer with diesel engines, and they appear to be poised to rapidly increase the number of passenger cars powered by diesel engines as well. I could see increases in demand for a wide range of products in the diesel performance arena. It shouldn’t be limited to just one or two items.”
Ed "Blake" Burgy, automotive product manager for CORSA Performance, agreed.
“I still think diesel products will continue to be a hot commodity in 2007,” said Burgy. “The diesel market is just starting to come into its own, and now there are enthusiasts and ‘gear-heads’ looking at buying diesel trucks because now finally there are more and more performance parts becoming available. Also, with gas prices still high, now could be the right time for some great performance-oriented diesel cars and their respective tuning parts to make it back to the U.S.
Burgy also predicts that exhaust will be hot in ’07 as well.
“There are very few other parts in the aftermarket that can affect the overall appeal of a vehicle like exhaust can,” he said. “The right exhaust can not only free up some additional power, but deliver additional fuel economy too. Sometimes, even more important, a good exhaust can add to the aesthetics of the vehicle by making it look better and sound ‘right’ for the owner. The right exhaust note or sound can really add to the visceral experience of driving.
“In general, I think a lot of customers will stay with the easy bolt-on components. Stuff that you can put on a vehicle and not have a big worry about warranty or resale value. The parts that you can bolt on and take right back off — exhaust, air intakes, wheels and now, electronic programmers. If customers decide they don’t like it or they want to try something different or newer on the market, they just take the parts back off, put them on Ebay and move on. [If you] need to take your vehicle back to the dealer for warranty and you are concerned about them hassling you over your aftermarket parts, just take them back off for a while, no big deal.”
Bill Hahn, Jr., president of Hahn Racecraft, said he’s been noticing that consumers are increasingly making performance a key factor when purchasing new vehicles. While he predicts there will be many hot items in the performance segment this year, Hahn predicts that turbos will top the list.
“In the case of factory turbo vehicles such as the Solstice GXP, and the Sky Redline, consumers are purchasing vehicles with performance in mind,” said Hahn. “We find many customers researching the available upgrades prior to purchasing the vehicle. The other side of this coin is many customers who purchase the non-turbo versions of cars, so that they can enjoy the lower price tag and insurance, are looking for turbo systems to keep up with the factory turbo cars.
“Another hot item in the performance segment is user-friendly fuel system solutions,” added Hahn. “The aftermarket has been flooded with companies that can make manifold and turbo combinations, or offer superchargers, but this leaves end users searching for fuel system solutions for cars. The typical end user is not tuning-savvy enough, or wants to spend enough, to go to a full stand-alone engine management system. Companies that are able to offer user friendly tuning solutions to their customers at a reasonable price are definitely going to reap the rewards. This situation is what led Hahn RaceCraft to develop its PortFueler system for forced induction cars.”
Caleb Newman, vice president, director of engineering and aftermarket operations, Katech Performance, also sees engines as one of the top picks for performance consumers this year.
“LS7 engines are hot now,” said Newman. “They are propagating into an array of applications outside of its natural home, the Corvette C6 Z06. The gen3/4 engine family is also becoming more widely accepted for nearly any application such as hot rod restorations, custom cars and even transplants into non-GM vehicle — Porsches, Aston Martins and Mustangs, as an example. Katech (as well as other companies) has solved integration problems of installing the LS7 into nearly anything making it the number-one choice for a 427 powerplant.”
Regardless of what the hot product will be this year, Fidanza VP Bob Scheid says people with stick with quality products. They don’t want gimmicks and they don’t want junk, he says.
“I believe it will be the tried and tested performance components [that succeed],” said Scheid. “I think the buying public has seen enough of the novelty and gimmick items. Those parts such as clutches, pistons, intakes, headers and others that have a proven track record will be most sought after. They will also be looking for those components that are well built. The cheap knock-off items have run their course and too many consumers have been burned by their poor quality. We are seeing it already. Our clutch and flywheel lines are growing at incredible rates."
Arianne Anderson, Counterman managing editor, contributed to this report.