There is starting to be a new meaning to the phrase “curb appeal.” Traditionally, when you hear that phrase, you think of home improvement shows and real estate, but it’s starting to mean something totally new for the automotive industry.
The idea behind curb appeal started when real estate professionals began creating a “best practices” approach to selling homes. One thing they immediately noticed was that homes with a nice exterior always attract more potential buyers, so they began telling home owners to make small investments in the landscaping and exterior of the home to increase its value, and to get that all-important good first impression. If the first impression is a positive one, then the whole experience of viewing the home tends to be favorable.
It didn’t take long for this phenomenon to catch on in other areas too. Take for instance the automotive industry. Scion was the first to adapt this new approach to selling cars by creating a full line of add-on accessories to ramp up the appeal to a younger, more mobile demographic. As it turns out, that once minority demographic is turning into a fast growing majority, and suddenly automotive personalization is in huge demand. Scion figured out that by adding things to separate their cars from the run-of-the-mill variety, they would attract a new audience, and inevitably, success followed.
In 2009, we have seen a major upheaval in the automotive industry, with new car sales plummeting, GM on the verge of bankruptcy, and Chrysler selling out to Fiat. There are a lot of things that are going to take time to sort out in the new car markets, and this has given rise to a new type of consumer; one who will put off buying a new car and start re-investing in a current vehicle. This means that used car sales will increase and car owners will start ramping up the “curb appeal” of their cars to increase their value and help them sell quicker. Or, they re-invest in their vehicles to make them last longer, refresh the look and feel, or increase the performance.
This new attitude stems from a lack of consumer confidence caused by the underlying economic crisis. For many, this difficult financial time has taken the focus off of living beyond our means to look as good as possible, and put the focus on smart financial planning, reducing debt, and staying employed. Investing a few hundred dollars to prolong the life, increase the performance, and improve the vehicles appearance seems like a smarter decision when weighed against the prospect of buying a new car and taking on a lot more debt.
Even with these hopeful emerging trends, the Specialty Equipment Market Association recorded the lowest demand for aftermarket parts ever recorded for the month of April 2009. The Performance Parts and Accessories Demand Index (PADI) tracks the percentage of consumers who intend to buy aftermarket car accessories within the next three months. The index dropped to an all time low of 26% this month, down from a previous high of 81% just 14 months ago. Even so, experts believe that 26% of consumers intending to buy car accessories within the next three months in the midst of our current economic condition is still quite strong compared to what the index was estimated to be at this time.
The PADI index also showed that of all aftermarket parts sales, over 49% of the parts purchased were for general personalization and restyling, which could also be pointing to the fact that individuals are intending to stay in their cars longer. All of these indicators point to an increasing demand for aftermarket parts, performance parts, and styling accessories over the next few years. Hopefully, new car manufacturers will get on board with the new trends and start offering some new and exciting ways to ramp up their own curb appeal, giving us all something to smile about.