Specialty vehicles spark mainstream sales
The Detroit News
TRAVERSE CITY — Specialty vehicles such as the Chevrolet SSR sport truck do more than generate buzz, they drive sales of mainstream products, new research shows.
Among pickup truck buyers surveyed by Rochester-based Foresight Research, a significant percentage said their purchase decisions were influenced by an automaker’s specialty vehicle offerings. Some said they weren’t even shopping for pickups — they only visited their dealers to ogle specialty vehicles.
“Clearly, such cars and trucks have a big impact on generating new sales and pushing profits,” said Steven Bruyn, Foresight’s chief executive officer.
The survey results provide a measure of vindication for automakers. Industry critics and some Wall Street analysts have dismissed specialty vehicles because they waste financial resources but are sold in low volumes.
Paul Wilbur, president and CEO of specialty vehicle builder ASC Inc., told attendees of the 2004 Management Briefing Seminars here that specialty vehicles are fueling industry expansion.
In the last 10 years, the number of car and light truck models has grown by 100 to about 350, Wilbur said.
“What people want is change,” Wilbur said.
Foresight surveyed 2,200 pickup buyers and asked what motivated their purchase decisions. Of those who bought Chevrolet Silverados and Avalanches, 15 percent were “somewhat” influenced by the halo effect created by SSR.
But 8 percent indicated their purchases were a direct result of initial interest in the SSR.
Similarly, Foresight found that 6 percent of Ford F-150 buyers were influenced by the SVT F-150 Lightning high-performance pickup. And Dodge Ram buyers were influenced — five percent indirectly and two percent directly — by the Dodge Viper sports car.
Even though the Ram and Viper bear no resemblance, Ram buyers were intrigued by the notion that Dodge was associated with both vehicles.
“The Viper demonstrates capabilities and design far beyond what the brand is typically known for,” Bruyn said.
Automakers aren’t surprised that specialty vehicles influence sales of high-volume products, even though the degree of influence had never before been measured.