Americans were certainly driving less in the first half of the year, with miles driven down 17% year-to-date through May and significantly steeper in the latter two months*, but that did not hinder the automotive aftermarket industry from growing its sales in the first half of the year. Do-it-yourself (DIY) and discretionary categories tied to at-home car projects were at the top of the performance chart and the primary contributors to the automotive aftermarket’s 4% dollar sales growth in the first six months of 2020, according to The NPD Group.
The fastest growing categories were paint (+33%), body repair (+27%), and light duty shop equipment (+24%). Appearance accessories (+19%) and chemicals (+16%) including brushes, towels, polishing tools, waxes/polishes and vehicle wash also ranked among the top. More of the core, as-needed aftermarket categories — many of which were among the top gainers at this point last year — fell at the lower end of the spectrum, including washer fluid (-15%), wipers (-10%), lighting (-6%), and motor oil (-2%).
The DIY and discretionary categories have grown sales significantly during the COVID-19 period as consumers have undertaken at-home projects, from washing and detailing their everyday cars to taking the cover off a project vehicle in the garage. In addition, the coming of summer has also boded well for aftermarket products tied to boating, recreational vehicles, ATVs and motorcycles, with products such as marine/ATV oil and motorcycle oil up 22% and 21%, respectively.
“There are a number of nice tailwinds in the air for the aftermarket industry. Lower gas prices coupled with an anti-viral society limiting mass transportation and favoring road over air travel places greater reliance are car usage and health. In addition, consumers tend to watch how they spend their dollars during economic uncertainty and often do more DIY – a sales generator and relationship builder for the aftermarket,” said Nathan Shipley, NPD’s automotive analyst. “And, today is as optimal a moment as ever for us as an industry to encourage education among younger generations, teach them about car care, and influence a new wave of DIY behavior for years to come.”
Source: The NPD Group/ U.S. Retail Tracking Service/ January-June 2020 vs. 2019
*Source: U.S. Department of Transportation/ January-May 2020