Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2007   by Auto Service World

Small Trucks Pulling Their Weight

Anybody who has ever had to live with a small SUV for any length of time knows that, despite their size, they are sometimes challenged when it comes to interior space.

As fuel prices continue to cruise into the stratosphere, it is forecast that the large SUV and light truck, vehicles that do have significant carrying and towing capacity, will decline in popularity.

According to research from Frost & Sullivan, this will drive up the popularity of cargo handling accessories. Already seen in increasing numbers, cargo handling accessories can take the form of roof racks, hitch-mounted bike racks, or moulded pods that contain all manner of sporting gear or miscellany. Research says we are going to be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

In fact, Frost & Sullivan estimates that the market will increase from $315.9 million USD in 2006 to $430.3 million USD in 2013. This represents a significant state of growth, particularly when you factor in the projected single digit growth in the traditional aftermarket over the same period.

“While revenue growth is anticipated to remain strong over the forecast period, manufacturers and distributors should keep their eyes on the retiring Baby Boom generation,” says Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Stephen Spivey. “[North] Americans born in the 1940s to the 1960s are active participants in outdoor recreation and travel; and as this large population of consumers stops working, they will become an important target group for manufacturers of cargo management accessories.”

With high fuel prices here to stay, Frost & Sullivan expects sales of cars to increase and light trucks to decrease. That means fewer large SUVs and one-ton pickups on the roadways, and more sedans, coupes, and crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). These vehicles cannot carry as much as a large truck, so consumers will use cargo management accessories to handle their additional storage needs. However, manufacturers are highly dependent on high-end specialty outdoor retail stores to sell cargo management accessories, since their employees are better trained to sell the merchandise. Sporting goods stores and mass merchant chains, which receive more consumer traffic, are less successful with cargo management accessories because their employees may not be able to answer vehicle owners’ questions.

“Consumers have questions about the cargo and sports carriers they would like to buy, since some require custom fitting to each vehicle,” explains Spivey. “If store employees do not know if the product is compatible with a shopper’s car or cannot explain how to install it, the shopper is not likely to buy the product and will go to a store where employees are more helpful.”

Manufacturers need to address this challenge on multiple fronts. Over the short term, they should increase product training to their customers so that they can pass the information on to their employees and improve their cargo management product sales. Over the long term, they need to identify ways to make their products simpler and easier to use so that they can be sold in mass retail stores. This would increase the overall demand for cargo management products, thus boosting revenues.

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