Auto Service World
News   February 24, 2023   by Christina Lambert

Examining SUV aftermarket parts demand

The Canadian automotive industry is thriving, but there’s still a large gap between aftermarket and OEM parts. Find out what consumers prefer and why

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You can easily overlook just how big the Canadian automotive aftermarket is.

According to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, the country’s automotive aftermarket was worth $37.8 billion in 2021. Canada is one of the top 12 producers of light vehicles in the world and more than 1.4 million vehicles are manufactured locally annually.

All this to say, automotive service professionals have choices when it comes to deciding where to source parts to service and maintain customer vehicles, especially in the sport utility vehicle market. They can go through the aftermarket or through the original equipment channel.

But both of these options come with their own pros and cons, as well as their own impacts on the industry as a whole.

SUVs are also a popular vehicle type for electric convergence, which puts them neatly in alignment with the push for more sustainable manufacturing and driving. Furthermore, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reported that the large SUV segment grew 12.6 per cent in sales in 2022 year-over-year, despite declining sales overall. Growing demand for more cargo space, better seating comfort, and more seats for long-distance travel is driving the space.

Canada’s vehicle portfolio is highly concentrated with SUVs and light trucks, making their parts some of the most sought-out auto equipment in the country. This means that regardless of the differences between aftermarket and OEM parts, the demand for both from repair shops and retail outlets is relatively high.

Driving factors

Even though OEMs are popular amongst a smaller demographic of Canadian car owners, aftermarket parts are still the most affordable and accessible, making them more widespread and in demand.

Some of the driving factors behind the localized popularity of aftermarket parts include the rising number of women drivers, more consumers falling out of dealership reach after their car warranty ends, and the economic aftereffects of COVID-19. The rise of used car sales also contributes to the demand for localized aftermarket parts that are accessible and within the average consumer’s budget.

Many repair shops are highlighting the pros of aftermarket parts over OEMs based on these reasons. OEMs fall somewhat short in many areas, and aftermarket parts are ready and able to fill the gaps at a lesser cost. By sharing this information with consumers, there’s a growing acceptance of the benefits of aftermarket parts, especially for SUV owners across Canada.

Most popular aftermarket parts

Driven by consumer demand and the ongoing push for acceptance by repair shops and retail outlets, the Canadian aftermarket parts sector is thriving. But there are some parts that are more in demand than others. The most popular aftermarket parts sold in the Canadian region include:

  • Air intake systems
  • Exhaust systems
  • Brakes
  • Performance chips
  • Wheels
  • Suspension systems
  • Tires
  • Headlights

Due to Canada’s rocky terrain and vibrant SUV owner community, any aftermarket parts that can accommodate for any breakages or replacements in a quick, easy and affordable fashion are popular. Repair shops and retail outlets know this and can capitalize on these factors, encouraging consumers to opt for the readily available, cheaper options that allow them to get the job done without delays.

OEM parts not making the grade

Despite their high demand amongst a small population of consumers, OEMs are still not the average Canadian’s first choice for car parts. This is down to several reasons, most of which relate to economic fluctuation and social accessibility.

OEM parts may be designed to fit the exact shape of specific car brands, but they are well above most people’s auto repair budget, which makes them somewhat unreachable and a hard sell for repair shops. Furthermore, OEMs can be difficult to get hold of and parts availability is often problematic. When placing an order for a car part, it can take anywhere between days, weeks, and months to finally receive and fit it. This isn’t practical for repair shops, nor is it ideal for customers.

Canadian consumers are known for prioritizing sustainability and local commerce. They have also shown a distinct preference for buying SUVs and trucks in recent years — two vehicle types that OEMs are struggling to meet the demand for. This causes inconsistency and delays in the OEM ordering and manufacturing process, hence why OEM parts are not meeting Canadian consumers’ expectations.

The future

From a global perspective, the OEM and aftermarkets parts industry is projected to grow by 3.4 per cent by 2030. It is an active, constantly expanding industry that has a firm grip all over the world. But most specifically in North America (including Canada), Europe, and Asia Pacific.

The future of the aftermarkets and OEM industry is expected to continue growing and expanding for a wide number of reasons. Some of which include:

  • Digitization: The shift to all things digital makes it possible for the auto parts industry to expand its reach and provide special services such as delivery, bulk ordering, and trend following.
  • Increased spending: Canadian consumers are increasingly adjusting their auto-spending budgets. This fuels the OEM and aftermarket industry considerably.

Another major trend expected to dominate the OEM and aftermarket industry is the amplification of demand for light trucks and SUVs. And it’s not just Canadians who want bigger cars with larger tires that can readily tackle tough terrain and inclement weather. Car owners across the globe are turning their attention to SUVs as one of the most desirable vehicle types around.

With such a thriving automotive industry, it’s no wonder that Canada is one of the best places in the world to manufacture, order, and purchase car parts for SUVs. But while OEMs are the popular choice for a small section of the population who prioritize brand-to-brand consistency, the demand for localized aftermarket parts that are cheaper and more readily available takes the lead.

Christina Lambert is a car enthusiast with a passion for mini vehicles. When not out on the road, she can be found writing about her experiences and sharing her love of cars with others

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