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Great Britain’s Automotive Aftermarket Holds Potential for U.S. Suppliers

Recent changes in market access regulations and similarities between consumers in the U.K. and U.S. make the $24 billion automotive aftermarket in Great Britain a potential sweet spot for U.S. suppliers.

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — Recent changes in market access regulations and similarities between consumers in the U.K. and U.S. make the $24 billion automotive aftermarket in Great Britain a potential sweet spot for U.S. suppliers.

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As reported in MEMA’s bimonthly newsletter Market Analysis, U.S. aftermarket manufacturers have had limited access to Great Britain’s markets in the past due to a 1995 exemption to European Union free market regulations. The exemption, which allowed vehicle manufacturers to require dealers to use OE parts and materials exclusively, was relaxed near the end of 2002 — giving aftermarket manufacturers more access to dealers.

A recent U.S. State Department report notes that the British aftermarket’s estimated value of $24 billion – excluding accessories and chemicals such as waxes and polishes – includes:

• $8.5 billion for tires
• $6.8 billion for brakes
• $3.1 billion for filters
• $1.8 billion for batteries
• $1 billion for shock absorbers
• $800 million for spark plugs.

The driving habits of British consumers are very similar to their U.S. counterparts, according to MEMA’s findings. British consumers are dependent on motor vehicles for personal transportation and the movement of goods. According to the World Automotive Market Report, published by the Overseas Automotive Council (OAC) and MEMA, the vehicle population in Great Britain was approximately 32 million vehicles in 2002 and new vehicle sales were 2.9 million. This puts the U.K. on par with the U.S. as a vehicle-intensive country with 2.1 persons per car.

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However, British drivers do not share U.S. consumers’ love of trucks, vans and utility vehicles as personal vehicles. Light trucks, vans and SUVs make up just 11 percent of the vehicles on British roads, compared to approximately 40 percent in the U.S. British drivers also favor diesel-powered light vehicles more than U.S. drivers. Like the rest of Europe, diesels are becoming very popular in Great Britain and it is expected that by the end of 2004, diesel-powered vehicles will account for nearly one-third of all new light vehicle sales.

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