February 27, 2003, 12:00 AM

Those hot rod Civics are bringing Crutchfield.com a younger audience

As it chugs toward 30 years of age, auto and home electronics retailer Crutchfield is using its web site to stay with it. Crutchfield.com has launched The Scene, an area dedicated to up-to-the-minute coverage of import tuner car shows, at which it began exhibiting last year as a branding initiative.

Internet Retailer

Anyone over 25 probably doesn’t know what a “tuner” car is. But that hasn’t stopped the businessmen at Crutchfield.com from setting up part of their site to attract aficionados of super-customized, smaller, import cars-cars that have been “tuned” for maximum performance.

As it chugs toward 30 years of age, auto and home electronics retailer Crutchfield is using its web site to stay with it. Crutchfield.com has launched The Scene, an area dedicated to up-to-the-minute coverage of import tuner car shows, at which it began exhibiting last year as a branding initiative. When Crutchfield attends a weekend car show, coverage and digital pictures are on the site by Monday. Though less than three months old, that feature is driving traffic from the targeted group-and helping to draw in sales from a younger buyer.

While Cruthfield’s customer base already includes a fair representation from a younger demographic, the car audio market today is slightly older than it was five to 10 years ago. “We wanted to make sure we could stay on the younger side of the car market,” says marketing director Alan Rimm-Kaufman.

And while Crutchfield is known for audio components, it’s started stocking the auto peripherals that tuner fans want. Even beyond maximum performance, tuner cars feature a lot of glitz-engine jewelry, neon-lit windshield wipers, chrome interior speaker grilles-a scene detailed in last summer’s film, “The Fast and the Furious.”

On the site, show coverage is linked to a custom car accessory tab and relevant audio and even video products.

Though Crutchfield also supports merchandising efforts for the import tuner car market with catalog inserts, the web makes a unique contribution to marketing in two fronts, the first being the overlap in age between the tuner audience and the online audience.

The second is in helping to push more sales of the products to Crutchfield by touting their availability nationwide, beyond the urban centers where products and activity are concentrated. “In some parts of the country, it’s hard to get this stuff,” Rimm-Kaufman says. He notes that the market for custom car components and accessories isn’t mature, which means suppliers include smaller players, importers and local garage-based shops. “We screen what we sell,” he says. “We’ve looked at products that didn’t meet our quality standards.”

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