Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2015   by Steve Pawlett

Stricter Emission Standards Driving Aftermarket Sales

With the new, tougher OBD-II emission standards, emission components sales are increasing across the board. In a recent survey by Jobber News, over 85% of respondents report they have seen a steady increase in emission component sales. Some 20% of respondents have seen an increase in business of over 35%, while 50% of respondents say they have seen at least a 15% increase in emission parts sales. The strongest sellers are, of course, catalytic converters and O2 sensors, followed by mass air flow sensors and other evaporative system components.
A key component of successful emission sales is anticipating customers’ needs and having the right products on the shelves. While it is virtually impossible to stock every unit, given the number of vehicle models on the market today, to sell successfully in the emissions market jobbers need to focus on the sweet-spot years and know which models are predominant in their particular area. A well thought-out backup supply of some of the more hard-to-find slow movers is also a prudent move. It’s important to have the coverage and availability to complete every sale, particularly when you’re working with a technician who has a customer waiting for a repair.
Given the wide age range of vehicles on the road today, we asked survey respondents to break down the percentage of vehicles they work on in each age range. Some 23% of respondents report that only 10% of sales are for vehicles in the 4-7-year-old category, while another 13% report they do 15% of sales in this category, and 6% report they do 25% of their sales in this category.
In the 7-10-year-old category, 50% of respondents report that some 29% of their emission sales come from this category, while another 16% see an average of 16% of the overall emissions component sales category. In the 13-25-year-old category, sales are pretty much spread evenly across the board, making up anywhere from 10% to 15% of emission component sales.
Catalytic converters have become strong performers in recent years, making up for the slowdown in exhaust system sales. More and more specialized aftermarket units are being engineered as manufacturers continue to improve the technology. Having a good selection of these units in your inventory can ensure you are the first-call supplier.
The popularity of direct-fit systems over universal fit systems may well play a role in your particular market. By taking a close look at the particular street-level economic and demographic factors of your customer base, you will quickly see what you need to have in stock and on call, better than any national stats you may be relying on.
Converter development now requires not only catalyst expertise, but also extensive insight into manifold and gasket design. Overall fitment has become much more important, due to manifold runner configurations and positioning of the O2 sensors. In general, jobbers have to be vigilant of any aftermarket manifold converter that deviates significantly from the OE design, in order to prevent comebacks due to a poorly designed converter.
“We do need to better train the techs working on these new cars. Counter staff cannot be doing the work for them. They are the ones who need to keep up,” commented one respondent.
Some pertinent factors that have been raising the demand for direct-fit cats from the repair community include the time savings and convenience of a bolt-on repair, as well as the increased coverage and availability of these units. Stricter emissions standards (see sidebar on the Tier 3 Emission Standards Phase-in) play a significant role in pushing vehicle manufacturers toward manifold converters, which help clean emissions more quickly and thoroughly by being positioned closer to the engine. Direct-fit replacement converters are needed for these applications as well as for many smaller vehicles, including imports, with very tight under-body packaging.
With consolidation across model years, the aftermarket is now seeing kits that will fit a wider range of models. The one-piece-fits-all-models approach is definitely growing with manufacturers.
“With car sales being very high these years, catalytic sales are up. On the other hand, the increasing number of plug-in cars and fully electrical vehicles will start to eliminate these components. This will affect the market faster than we think,” warns one respondent.
While direct-fit units are generally more expensive, they have the added benefit of enabling more service providers to perform these repairs, rather than subbing out the jobs to muffler shops and other specialty shops that have the fabrication and welding equipment and specialized skills needed to install universal converters, which broadens your sales market.
While some repair shops prefer to order mainly universal product because they have the skills to make it work on all kinds of applications, many technicians won’t touch a universal unit because they just don’t want to deal with that part of it.
So how do jobbers prefer to deal with the challenge of carrying a wide range of catalytic converters? Their responses are just as varied as the catalytic converters they sell:
“We can’t, it’s all over.”
“I find it’s better to use one line – whichever one you like.”
“I stock a few universal converters and then order direct-fit units as required.”
“I have multiple deliveries from the DCs every day.”
“I watch sales and inventories, enter all part numbers, analyze computer reports, and listen to my sales force.”
“We use good quality catalytic converters.”
For savvy jobbers that know their market in terms of stocking, the aging car park is a booming market for emission system sales in a strengthening economy. By taking the time to educate your service provider customers on the value of investing in premium exhaust components, you will empower them with the knowledge they need, to help their customers make the right choice and increase your sales at the same time.

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