Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2013   by Auto Service World

Cabin Air Filters: Building Consumer Awareness

With high OE installation rates of cabin air filters, aftermarket sales are set to grow at a rate of 11.5% in terms of unit shipments and 14.1% in terms of revenues between 2010 and 2017, according to the latest aftermarket cabin filter report by Frost & Sullivan. However, poor consumer awareness of CAFs is still hindering sales growth for this market segment.

According to Frost & Sullivan’s aftermarket analysis, factors pushing growth are increasing original equipment installation, growing consumer awareness, and escalating health concerns. Growth in the particulate cabin air filter segment will be slower than that of combination filters, as consumers are likely to switch to the latter as awareness of their advantages grows. Combination filters are priced on average 25% to 40% higher than particulate filters, boosting total aftermarket revenues. Overall, increased consumer spending on routine maintenance products over the short to medium term is expected, because people are keeping their vehicles longer in the current economy. In the U.S., the cabin air filter installation rate in vehicles in operation was 45% in 2010 and is poised to reach 56% in 2017; this will significantly drive aftermarket unit shipments of CAFs.

Although the prospects for the market look upbeat, some challenges are slowing market growth. The biggest challenge facing the market is to improve consumer awareness of the benefits of CAFs. This is still a relatively new category for end users. Consumers are aware of the importance of cabin air quality, but may be unaware that there is a filter that can remove dirt from the vehicle’s interior. Installers are often also not properly versed in current vehicle applications that have cabin air filters, and the time required to replace such filters. Therefore, they fail to communicate effectively to the vehicle owner that the CAF exists and needs replacement. Apart from this, the Frost & Sullivan study points out that inexpensive cabin air filters coming in from offshore countries are posing a challenge to CAFs in the premium category and hindering revenue growth.

“Counter staff and technicians that aren’t recommending cabin filter replacements are just leaving money on the table,” says Jay Buckley, technical training director, Fram Filtration. “Cabin air filters are becoming an important health and comfort market product, because pollution and airborne particles are an ongoing problem. It’s an easy sell once the customer is educated on the health benefits of a new cabin air filter.”

Studies conducted on very busy inner-city streets have revealed that the concentration of particles and noxious gases in the air along the road is three to six times higher, and in extreme situations, five to 10 times higher than air at the side of the road. The air enters the vehicle via the ventilation system.

“The market for cabin air filters is definitely increasing. Overall, we feel that this is an up-and-coming market that is poised for exceptional growth,” says Buckley.

“There are a lot of new vehicles being built that have these filters, but to a large extent, consumers don’t know anything about cabin air filters, so we see a real need to educate the consumer on this product category,” he adds.

Jobbers should be talking to their technician customers about following a reminder-type approach to cabin filter replacement, similar to what has been done with oil and air filters. Prominent displays at both jobber stores and auto repair shops can also help raise consumer awareness and ultimately boost CAF sales. Premium CAF product differentiations, like the Wix Bioshield 75 or Fram’s Fresh Breeze with Arm & Hammer baking soda, have also helped to raise consumer awareness.

In terms of coverage, suppliers note this is not a one-size-fits-all type of market. There are really no universal cabin air filter units. And it is not all that easy for the DIY market either. These filters can be quite difficult to locate and access, so it’s likely that the larger share of the market will be at the technician level.

“Changing filters regularly will provide a healthy and clean environment, enhance passenger comfort, and may reduce wear on the vehicle’s ventilation system. What we need to do is get customers to think of replacing these filters the same way they do with furnace filters in their homes, which they change regularly,” says Buckley.

“Cabin air filters are particularly beneficial to people with allergies, because these units do an effective job of removing allergens from the air. Failure to change the filter regularly will reduce this benefit, of course,” he adds.

While building awareness in a relatively new product is challenging, there are many demonstrable personal benefits to cabin air filter maintenance. A dirty cabin air filter is a powerful visual that is hard to ignore. Through simple suggestions like these, consumers can be made aware of the importance of regularly changing this filter.

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