Despite having a negative impact on miles driven, the pandemic led to automotive aftermarket consumers taking on car care projects themselves, which is paying dividends to the industry this year. The automotive aftermarket grew by 18% from January through May of 2021, and some of that growth so far this year can be credited to the millions of new aftermarket consumers added last year, according to The NPD Group.
The automotive aftermarket gained nearly 4 million new buyers in 2020, according to Checkout information from NPD. This influx of new buyers, combined with the benefits of economic stimulus, has contributed to double-digit sales revenue growth through May 2021, according to retail tracking information from NPD.
“Almost every retail industry was directly affected by pandemic-driven changes in consumer behavior, and the automotive aftermarket was no different,” said Nathan Shipley, automotive industry analyst for NPD. “With the reduction in driving behavior last year, many thought the industry would take a significant hit. Instead, we saw an uptick in project and recreational purchases for the old antique car parked in the garage, the new boat or RV purchased for family vacations, or simply products to detail the ‘daily driver’ vehicles sitting idle in the driveway, all of which offset any downside from the reduction in miles driven.”
The fact that aftermarket sales revenue nearly doubled in the first five months of 2021 was presaged by sales gains of 43% online and 7% in-store last year. In fact, NPD’s recent Future of Auto report reveals that during the pandemic 13% of the U.S. population claimed to have worked on vehicle projects or made automotive repairs that they’ve never attempted before. The categories that found significant success with the online consumer in 2020 helps to paint a picture of what some of these new consumers were focused on – automotive lighting, exterior accessories, battery accessories, interior accessories, appearance chemicals, tire and wheel accessories, motor oil, filters, towing and hitch, and light duty shop equipment.
“The automotive do-it-yourself consumer landscape looks different today than it did prior to 2020,” Shipley said. “Taking the time to better understand the who, what, where, and why behind these changing consumer patterns will pay huge dividends in the future. Not only does our industry have all new people to market to, but consumers that were already engaged with us have changed their behavior too. That means future marketing, pricing, and promotion efforts need to change, to address the significant shift in who is out there buying products in the aftermarket.”