Americans once again are taking to the roads and skies after spending most of the past year close to home.
During the pandemic most people only drove a few miles a week to pick up essentials at the local store. Working from home, virtual school at home and no special events, sports or other activities resulted in a drastic drop in vehicle miles traveled. All aspects of the automotive industry felt the impact.
Not only did people drive less during the pandemic, but sales of new vehicles also dropped 15%. More people opted to purchase vehicles online instead of in-person, and more people used their newfound free time to tackle do-it-yourself vehicle repairs.
To help identify how consumer habits and attitudes have changed, The Martec Group surveyed 1,000 consumers, intentionally capturing vehicle owners and people who work full-time, with three primary objectives:
- Explore the pandemic’s impact on vehicle maintenance and repair behaviors
- Assess pent-up demand for vehicle maintenance and repairs
- Define consumer segments regarding maintaining and servicing vehicles during a pandemic
Overall, the survey identified four distinct segments of the population regarding attitudes and behaviors toward vehicle repairs, parts purchasing, etc. Two of the larger consumer segments have become increasingly DIY-focused.
Now that people are returning to more typical daily habits, an easy assumption to make is that they will need more vehicle maintenance and will want to catch up on repairs prior to summer road trip vacations.
Another projection is that vehicle purchases will increase as new suburban residents who left city centers during the pandemic forgo mass transportation for a vehicle.
These assumptions were validated by the Martec Group survey, which found some people were moving farther away from their workplaces. And because a significant number of people were putting off purchasing or leasing a newer vehicle, increases in vehicle miles traveled and average vehicle age likely will lead to more maintenance and repair.
While some sectors of the population will be quick to re-engage in normal daily life, others are hesitant even as vaccination becomes widespread.
The American Psychological Assn. conducted a study in March 2021 and found 49% of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends. Consumers who are worried about virus exposure and variants may justify putting off vehicle maintenance even longer than they have already.
Rather than delaying vehicle maintenance or upgrades, the Martec Group found a growing section of the population has opted to learn how to perform these tasks independently. While some people baked bread, did puzzles and caught up on their reading, others turned to the internet to learn how to fix burnt-out lights, change the oil and replace brake pads.
According to Martec’s fin`dings, the DIY market segment is expected to experience growth post-pandemic as consumers feel more confident working on their vehicles.
Knowing that different consumer segments are reacting in varied ways, businesses in the aftermarket industry need to identify and understand how the pandemic has impacted their customer base on multiple levels. A few of the factors that need to be considered include:
- Current figures on unperformed maintenance and how consumers will maintain their vehicles (DIY vs. install-it-for-me vs. dealer vs. shop)
- Future vehicle miles traveled data
- Purchasing behaviors, such as when consumers expect to buy or lease newer vehicles
- Impact of COVID-19 on your customers’
- Buying behaviors
- Channel preference (retail vs. e-tail)
- Job motivation
- Company satisfaction
All of these factors, as well as the new habits consumers developed during the pandemic including a greater penchant for online shopping and DIY vehicle maintenance, will impact the aftermarket industry for years to come.
Even after the pandemic is over and people are traveling in their vehicles whenever and wherever they desire, businesses in the aftermarket industry will be changed. Being ready for what comes next will be essential for success.
Details of the full automotive aftermarket report are available here: https://info.martecgroup.com/automotive-aftermarket-report-covid-impacts
Chuck Bean (pictured, left) is a partner in and chief marketing officer of Martec.