As OEMs continue to work towards meeting the increasingly tough CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for better fuel efficiency and lighter weight, modular chassis componentry is becoming standard equipment. Comparatively light unitized control arm assemblies have quickly gone mainstream, providing jobbers with a steadily growing revenue stream – albeit while creating a bit of a SKU nightmare.
All-in-one control arm assemblies are mainly constructed of lightweight aluminum, which makes them more susceptible to damage from road hazards such as potholes; as a result, they tend to wear out more quickly, making them a high-demand item. At the same time, the continued proliferation of individualized types for different vehicles has led to rapid SKU growth in this category. With the import car market rapidly closing in on the 50% mark for market share, chassis component manufacturers have responded to fill an increasing number of individualized replacement units.
Judging by the response to our chassis component sales survey, most jobbers are experiencing a significant increase in sales in this category. Overall, 87.6% of respondents indicated they have seen an appreciable increase in chassis component sales. The majority of jobbers responding to the survey are seeing anywhere from a 5% increase in chassis component sales to as much as a 70% increase in sales.
According to our survey of jobbers and wholesale distributors across Canada, over 27% of respondents report they have seen a 20% increase in chassis component sales for vehicles in the four- to seven-year-old category; over 15% have seen more than a 40% increase and 5% of respondents have experienced 70% growth in sales in this category.
In the seven- to 12-year-old category, almost 12% of respondents have seen a 30% increase in sales, while more than 25% of respondents report a 50% increase in sales in this category.
In the 13- to 25-year-old category, over 27% of respondents report a 20% increase in business, while just over 18% report 30% growth; another 5% report 50% growth in the older vehicle segment.
“With many foreign nameplates, in most cases it’s difficult if not impossible to get just the ball joint. You usually have to do the control arm, and if you look at suspensions now, you are not just talking the front end; you’re also talking the rear on many vehicles. If it’s got control arms on the back, then you’re doing those as well. The design of the car is changing, so I would say yeah, this market is definitely growing,” explains one respondent.
The proliferation of vehicle nameplates and platforms has been occurring for several years now, but one of the more significant trends is the rise of Korean nameplate applications that are now entering the aftermarket repair cycle. The good news is that owners of these vehicles are now more likely than ever to look to the aftermarket service provider rather than the dealer for repairs.
Not long ago, import vehicles were specialized and only supported by specialty parts suppliers like Worldpac, Altrom, Auto-Camping, etc. But jobbers have recognized this segment as a growth area for them. With imports now representing close to 50% of the market, it’s simply too large a segment to ignore.
Statistics show that consumers are holding on to their vehicles for longer periods, and when they do have repairs performed, they want the repair shop to use the best parts for enhanced performance and longer life. Additionally, because so many vehicles are now equipped with lighter-weight suspensions and low profile tires and wheels, changes in steering response are much more apparent. This makes premium technology the best choice for avoiding an unwanted comeback.
According to our survey, both price and brand are key decision-making factors, while many report that warranty also plays a slightly smaller but significant role in the purchase decision. “Customers usually will purchase a higher-priced product for newer vehicles, while older vehicle suspension purchasers are usually more price-conscious,” commented one respondent.
Other respondents to the survey claim that 80% of their customers buy on quality and 20% on price. Another jobber commented, “We offer top brands at a normal price, and it’s the service that brings in the business.”
“Unfortunately there are still many customers making decisions based on price only rather than quality, which means your counter staff must be pro-active and take the time to educate those customers on the importance of purchasing quality chassis components,” explains another survey respondent.
“It’s up to the parts counter people to qualify the customer on what is a better choice of quality and price for the particular application. The brand name does not seem to be a factor as much anymore, as long as the supplier stands behind the product and its warranties,” adds another respondent.
Other comments included a need for better cataloguing and more availability of rear chassis components. “Brand is important to my customers/installers, who are looking for both quality and warranty coverage. Our premium sales are far outpacing the economy line in recent years.”
Having the right inventory in stock is the key to strong sales. Prudent jobbers will work with their local repair shops to develop collaborative strategies that will help both parties increase their share of this growing category.
“I have sold a lot more control arms than I have in the recent past, and I don’t see that growth slowing down anytime soon,” concluded one jobber.
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