PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.—The value of the U.S. automotive aftermarket industry grew 2.5 percent in 2018, according to NPD Group Inc., buoyed by rising vehicle registrations, an aging U.S. vehicle population and stable gas prices.
At the same time, E-commerce continues to outpace overall aftermarket growth several times over. Online dollar sales for the industry grew by over 30 percent in 2018, according to NPD's Checkout E-commerce data, led by accessory sales.
Weather played an important role in the aftermarket's performance in 2018, NPD said, as frequent winter storms helped the industry grow 4 percent through November. That growth, however, was offset somewhat by a milder December that softened the full year trend.
Maintenance/repair and chemicals/additives/fluids exhibited growth in 2018, with sales of wipers, washer fluid and lighting leading the way. Accessories/appearance products declined, NPD said, likely impacted by a sales shift to e-commerce from brick-and-mortar retail.
E-commerce also is altering the aftermarket retail landscape through "buy online, pick up in store" practices, as NPD estimates nearly 80 percent of the e-commerce dollar volume is picked up at a retail location rather than being delivered to a home.
"Overall it was a strong sales year for the aftermarket, with macro trends and Mother Nature playing in the industry's favor," Nathan Shipley, NPD's executive director and automotive industry analyst, said. "Though my expectation is that the aftermarket will see little to no growth in 2019, there are players that will outperform this forecast.
"Game-changing moves are happening, from strategic partnerships and new entrants into the marketplace, to free shipping and new technologies from existing online platforms. While this may cause disruption, it will also ignite the industry with new opportunities," he said.