When it comes to profits, filters are often overlooked. It is not that jobbers are unaware of their profit potential; it’s more likely that many focus on lower-cost filters as they can be sold quickly, in great volumes, and appeal to service providers who are looking to stay competitive on price. While price is certainly one factor driving sales of lower-end filter products, jobbers need to keep in mind that more significant growth and profits are coming from premium filter products. Research and Market’s recent report, “Global Automotive Filter Market 2016-2021: Trend, Forecast and Opportunity Analysis,” takes a look at the global automotive filter market and finds the market in this product category looks promising both for the OEM and the aftermarket. To quote from the executive summary: “The global automotive filter market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.9% from 2016 to 2021. The major drivers of growth for this market are an increase in the production of vehicles, increasing focus of vehicle owners on preventive maintenance, increasing average age of vehicles in operation, and increasing miles driven per vehicle.” The findings of Research and Market’s study are supported by a recent report put out by The NPD Group, “2015 Emerging Car Care Trends.” The NPD Group finds that owners of both new and older vehicles are spending more on maintenance and repair. What is most significant to jobbers is where those maintenance dollars are being spent. Vehicle owners, the report finds, are putting their maintenance and repair dollars on premium, high-quality automotive products. And while price is certainly a factor for some vehicle owners, an ever increasing number of vehicle owners are shifting to paying more for products that are of significantly higher quality, and that offer real benefits in helping their vehicles perform better and last longer.
Focus on the Premium So what does this mean for jobbers? Simply, it is best to focus on premium filter products. Vehicle owners are already turning to premium products. All new vehicles being sold strongly recommend that premium products, from oil to filters, be used when it comes to regular maintenance; and older vehicle owners are now moving to using premium products to both maintain and extend the life of the vehicle. Jay Buckley, technical training director with the Fram Group, makers of Fram filtration products, says that Fram has been seeing this consumer shift to premium filter products for some time now. “Why? A car is a huge investment for most people,” he explains. “They read the owner’s manual and see the extended drain intervals [for oil changes] and are not willing to go that long between changes without using quality oil and premium filters.” “[Jobbers] should know that many ‘basic’ or low-cost filters only have enough capacity for the old industry standard of 5,000 km (3,000 mile) oil changes,” Buckley adds. “Extended drain intervals require a filter with at least as much dirt trapping capacity as the OE filters.” Edward Covington, vice-president, global quality, with Affinia Global Filtration agrees that the market has shifted to premium filters amongst vehicle owners, especially when it comes to oil filters. What jobbers need to do is figure out how to best match oil filters to vehicles and driving conditions, and to seek out the upsell opportunities for helping service writers and technicians move more consumers to premium filters. “Filters should be matched based on how you drive and when you want to change your oil and filter,” says Covington. “Standard oil filter offerings are best for highway operations, normal driving conditions, and traditional change intervals, generally 5,000 to 8,000 km (3,000 to 5,000 miles). Premium filters are best for severe driving conditions, on- or off-highway, and the OEM recommended change interval per the owner’s manual or life indicator, generally 6,000 to 16,000 km (3,750 miles to 10,000 miles), [and] not to exceed one year.” Where premium filters will really make an impact for jobbers is with European vehicles. Bill McKnight, team leader, training for Mahle Aftermarket Inc., says in 1999, European import vehicles on Canadian roads were only a fraction of the number of total vehicles sold in Canada, just a few million in total. “Today, that number has doubled, and this presents an opportunity for general repair shops and service stations to cater to this growing category.” What is unique about this category of vehicle owner is how they view vehicle maintenance. These owners put a premium on using OE-quality aftermarket parts and fluids, which includes such product categories as filters. “Owners of European cars tend to be very particular about maintenance,” says McKnight. “They tend to maintain OE brand loyalty, and extend this to the parts used in repairs. This means the quality of the parts you use is particularly important to your European car owners. This applies to not only critical suspension and engine components, but to regular replacement items like filters.”
What Makes a Premium Oil Filter? This is a question that will be asked not just of the front-line jobber staff, but of the service writer and technician. How you answer this question will help you make moving the technician and customer to premium filter products easier. The reason why a jobber’s staff will be asked this question is that when you put a standard oil filter and a premium oil filter side by side, they often do not look different from each other. The only difference will likely be the label that identifies one as a premium product. So a price-conscious vehicle owner, service writer, or technician may wonder why they are paying more for a premium product that looks no different from its standard sibling. Remember the saying that it is what’s inside that counts? What is important now is that today’s premium oil filters are now designed to work with certain motor oil blends in order to provide better filtration of particles and to keep the oil flowing to critical engine components. Fram’s Buckley says that while one can summarize the difference between a brand-name premium filter and a standard or no-name filter as Quality, Warranty and Engineering, “The real difference is in the filter media and valves. Inexpensive filters usually have plain rubber valves and cellulose media. [These] are not good for extended drain intervals. Premium filters will have a cellulose/synthetic glass blend or full-synthetic media, along with silicone valves.” “Full synthetic glass media is now found in many top-end filters,” Buckley continues. “It has both great efficiency and great capacity.” Many of these filters are also specifically designed to be used with today’s long-life and synthetic motor oils. “[That is] mostly due to blending of synthetic media with cellulose or full-synthetic media.” Affinia’s Covington explains that as engine designs and oil blends have moved to longer change intervals, “the filter design and materials are modified to accommodate longer service intervals. Higher durability filter media, gaskets, seals, and adhesives are used to withstand longer periods of operation in high-temperature motor oil and acidic conditions. Mahle’s McKnight adds that what really sets a premium oil filter apart is the filter media. An OE-quality filter will have filter pleats that are organized more closely together and are very even in appearance. This design is made to ensure an optimal oil flow through the filter material. A lower quality filter’s media will have fewer pleats and less filter media. Because there is less filter media, this can create a situation where there is a higher pressure drop across the filter and for the filter to collect less contaminants. “Brands by major filter manufacturers are backed with engineering and manufacturing expertise to provide the proper design for the intended application, driving conditions, and oil drain intervals,” Covington says. “Ninety-nine per cent product coverage for vehicles in operation, product availability through the distribution channel, catalogue and application support for new applications, obsolescence or slow-moving inventory protection, factory-trained field sales support, and engine repair warranty protection are standard for major brands by a filter manufacturer. Choose a brand that has stood the test of time and continues to offer the appropriate product and service needed to protect the customer’s trust in an ever-changing industry. Vehicle owners are expecting the service provider to recommend what is needed, nothing more or nothing less. Choosing the correct filter based on how they drive will provide the right level of protection for the oil and filter change interval.” nJN