Election Section

Teens pump revenue into car market

The Associated Press
Saturday April 28, 2001

DIAMOND BAR — Teenagers are setting the pace for a car-customizing craze that began in California several years ago and has now spread to the East Coast, Texas and the Midwest. 

The big-bucks tinkering often exceeds the original price of the car, with youths sometimes spending as much as $20,000 on aftermarket parts and accessories, including wheels, stereos and low-rider kits. 

Basic gotta-have customizing includes lowering the suspension and adding high-performance tires. For the more adventurous with deep pockets, there are nitrous-oxide injection units to rev up engine performance and 5,000-watt sound systems. 

“These kids are spending $2,000 on a set of wheels,” said Chris Horn of the 4,600-member Specialty Equipment Market Association, based in the Los Angeles suburb of Diamond Bar. 

“Our whole industry is a $24 billion a year business. It’s really growing at an explosive pace,” 

Horn said Thursday that teens with second jobs and mom-and-dad handouts are fueling the custom car spree. 

Rich Cutting recently spent $8,000 on audio for his ride. 

“Nobody wants a stock car,” said the resident of Woodland Hills in suburban Los Angeles. “Your car has to say a lot.” 

Honda, Acura, Lexus and Mitsubishi woo this crowd. 

Leading the explosive growth is the sport-compact portion of the automotive aftermarket industry. SEMA said that segment was worth $1.2 billion in 2000, which compares to $756 million in 1999 and $295 million in 1997. SEMA organizes shows nationwide to introduce car enthusiasts to the latest gee-whiz aftermarket items. It’s granddaddy event is held each November in Las Vegas. 

Manufacturers took notice and many aftermarket items have been incorporated into newer model cars. Fancy wheels, stereo systems, grilles and lighting accessories are just a few of those manufacturer embellishments. 

“Ford has really targeted the Focus as the car that 18- to 20-year-olds can buy and accessorize, and General Motors is focusing on this market,” Horn said.