Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

Ride Control Upgrades and Opportunities

“Performance-upgrade and off-road products have become the bright spots in the shock absorber and strut aftermarket. They are not affected by the improvement in quality of original-equipment shocks and struts, since their customers replace these items for other reasons,” according to research by Frost & Sullivan.

Consumers of other-than-replacement ride control are enthusiasts who are willing to spend money on their vehicles and will replace perfectly good units to improve handling or to otherwise modify their automobiles. Products like adjustable struts can literally transform a vehicle’s handling characteristics.

Customers of these products are much less price-sensitive than most vehicle owners, focusing on attributes such as performance, technology, and brand reputation.

As such, they are prime targets of marketing programs that can be driven by desire, not need.

Here are some ways to identify the key performance or upgrade customer:

Customized vehicle: This could be a personal license plate or aftermarket wheels. Don’t forget SUVs.

Aftermarket sound systems, especially on sport compact cars. You can literally hear these customers coming.

Listen for aftermarket muffler tips, too.

Plaza parades, “battle of the import” events at dragstrips, and other sport compact events are good places to determine one type of aftermarket customer; SUV and pickup owners who use their trucks off-road–for work or play–are others.

While performance upgrades can appeal to those who want to improve the ultimate handling of their vehicle, customers who want a smoother ride for their SUV do have options. Be prepared to communicate these to the retail customer.

Also, and this is important, do what you can to get your installer customers to open up to the possibilities of ride control sales as a desirable purchase, one that will provide noticeable improvement in handling and driving pleasure.


According to J.D. Power and Associates, car dealerships have 36% of the overall ride control market in Canada.

This makes the car dealer the leading player in the market, but a close second is the independent garage, which is a mere 10% behind in terms of market share.

This gap is the smallest of all product categories where the dealer ranks number one.

Regionally, car dealers are strongest in Alberta, and weakest in the Atlantic Provinces, where they trail the independent sector.

For older vehicles, in the 8-to-12-year-old category, the independent garage has a strong hold on the market; one-third of ride control service on these vehicles goes to the independent versus one-fifth going to the car dealer.

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