NPD Finds Repair Shops Gain, In Short Term

car mechanicPlummeting car sales are bad news for one part of the aftermarket business: customization of new vehicles. However, slower new-vehicle sales are good news, at least in the short term, for the segment of the auto parts business whose products are for service and repair. And more people than ever are keeping their vehicles longer.

According to NPD Group, Americans are spending more on parts and repairs to keep their current cars running. Also, in a recent NPD survey, 58% of consumers polled said they would spend more on service and repair to keep their vehicles running.

The consultancy's Automotive Aftermarket Industry Monitor (AAIM), which tracks retail and commercial sales at the point of sale for over 18,000 auto parts stores in the U.S., shows that the total volume of aftermarket volume was flat through March versus the first quarter of 2008. However, the study also showed several categories that are experiencing growth.



According to the AAIM study of retail data for the quarter ending March 2009, growth in unit volume indicates that consumers are fixing vehicles themselves or getting repairs done at retail. In addition to growth in unit volume, the aftermarket saw healthy first-quarter dollar volume increases, per NPD. Dollar volume of application parts for the first quarter of 2009 was up 6.3% versus a year ago.

NPD says the top five parts growth categories in the first quarter were wiper components; auto batteries; suspension; driveline; and electrical parts. The markets that saw the biggest growth for replacement parts were Boston, Hartford, Conn.; and Detroit; while Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville, Fla. experienced strong windshield wiper component sales growth during the first quarter.

David Portalatin, NPD automotive-industry analyst, says the boost in certain segments may be short-lived if consumers don't buy new vehicles.

"The two factors that contribute most to demand for automotive products and services are the number of vehicles on the road and how far those vehicles drive," he says. "It is possible neither of these factors will increase in 2009. So, while aging vehicles may give a short-term boost to parts sales, future demand growth may be more difficult to generate. In addition, many consumers are still trying to cut back on spending by deferring vehicle maintenance and repairs as much as they can."

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