The U.S. automotive aftermarket industry grew its retail sales by 2.5 percent in 2018, according to The NPD Group. In addition to favorable weather early in the year, NPD says this increase was fueled by the fundamentals of the industry being strong: more vehicles are on the road, the average age of vehicles is trending older and the majority of consumers are unconcerned about higher gasoline prices.
The weather played an important role in the aftermarket’s performance in 2018, as frequent winter storms helped the industry grow 4 percent through November; however, a milder December softened the full year trend.
Looking into the product category types, the Maintenance & Repair and Chemicals, Additives & Fluids category groups grew in 2018 while Accessories & Appearance products declined. Largely driven by the weather, wipers, washer fluid and lighting were the best-performing segments of the market, according to NPD’s research. Accessory type categories were some of the worst-performing, likely impacted by a sales shift from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce.
E-commerce continues to change the landscape of the aftermarket. Online dollar sales for the industry grew by over 30 percent in 2018, according to NPD’s Checkout E-commerce data. The data also shows that accessory sales, in particular, have been impacted by e-commerce. Almost 7 million consumers purchased an exterior accessory online in 2018, and the category has seen its buyer count increase significantly during this time. E-commerce also is altering the aftermarket retail landscape through “buy online, pick up in store,” as nearly 80 percent of the e-commerce dollar volume is picked up at a retail location rather than being delivered to a home.
“Overall it was a strong sales year for the aftermarket, with macro trends and Mother Nature playing in the industry’s favor,” said Nathan Shipley, executive director and automotive industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Though my expectation is that the aftermarket will see little to no growth in 2019, there are players that will outperform this forecast. Game-changing moves are happening, from strategic partnerships and new entrants into the marketplace, to free shipping and new technologies from existing online platforms. While this may cause disruption, it will also ignite the industry with new opportunities.”