NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- he ETF universe now boasts over 1000 individual products, according to the April fund flow data compiled by the National Stock Exchange.The industry's rapid growth and expansion has resulted in the creation of products designed to tap into vast corners of the marketplace. Despite this wide selection, there are still areas that have remained largely untouched by ETFs. The automobile industry has traditionally been one such region. Despite the fact that the car industry's resurgence has been one of the major success stories in the global economic revival, there is no pure play ETF option available, leaving auto enthusiasts to struggle to capture the strength of car makers and parts suppliers. This week, First Trust stepped in to fill that niche. With Tuesday's launch of the First Trust NASDAQ Global Auto Index Fund ( CARZ), the Illinois-based company has filled this longstanding gap, becoming the first ETF sponsor to provide investors with a pure way to target the global auto manufacturing industry. CARZ is designed to track a basket of reputable car makers in the United States and rest of the globe. The fund's 30 holdings present as a who's who of the car industry, with Daimler, Ford ( F), General Motors ( GM), Honda ( HMC) and Toyota ( TM) comprising the top five positions. Together, these and the rest of CARZ's top 10 holdings represent close to 60% of its assets. It is important to note that this fund's index is dominated by manufacturers. Popular auto parts suppliers such as Johnson Controls ( JCI) and BorgWarner ( BWA) cannot be found in the fund's index. The introduction of CARZ is exciting news for the ETF industry. However, during the fund's opening days of trading, it will be best for conservative investors to hold off on diving in. Like other brand new products, this fund will likely take time to gather steam and will be vulnerable to liquidity-related issues in the interim. Until the fund finds a stable following, there are well-weathered alternatives investors can turn to in order to satisfy demand for automotive exposure. In the past, with no way to gain concentrated exposure to this sector, I had often urged car-hungry ETF investors to turn to alternative options that boast notable auto exposure. For instance, with over 10% of their respective portfolios dedicated to automotive retailers, funds including the iShares Dow Jones Consumer Goods Index Fund ( IYK) and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF ( XRT) help to satisfy some demand.
Meanwhile, the mutual fund industry also boasts a product that combines exposure to a diverse collection of auto related equities. The Fidelity Select Automotive Fund's ( FSAVX) portfolio includes many of the same auto manufacturers as CARZ. However, unlike First Trust's new product, this mutual fund option expands its exposure beyond manufacturers to include suppliers. Johnson Controls, Tenneco ( TEN) and TRW Automotive Holdings ( TRW) can be found listed among the fund's top 10 components. The auto industry's phoenix-like resurgence has been exciting to watch and now, with the introduction of CARZ, ETF investors have their first chance to gain direct global exposure. It will be important to exercise caution in the opening days of the fund. As CARZ works to establish its place within the ETF industry, investors should continue turn to weathered-auto plays such as XRT, IYK and FSAVX. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
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