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The fall and rebound in product sales per vehicle

While total VIO will achieve little growth in 2021, aftermarket product use per vehicle is increasing

Fort Wayne, Ind.—Aftermarket light vehicle products climbed more than $27 billion at user-price in the U.S. between 2009 and 2019, according to the 2021 Lang Aftermarket Annual report. Two major factors had differing impacts on this aftermarket product increase: the vehicle population and aftermarket product use per vehicle.

“The sharp 2020 reduction in light vehicle aftermarket product volume caused by COVID-19 was not distributed equally among cars and light trucks,” states the report, which has an analysis of aftermarket product use per vehicle over the last 10 years, as well as differences in the annual product use of cars and light trucks, especially during 2020.

Below are some of the study’s findings:

Two Different Growth Dynamics
The Great Recession of 2008 had a lasting impact on the aftermarket.

Vehicles in operation (VIO) recorded minimal growth between 2009 and 2013, with virtually all aftermarket product expansion resulting from the increasing product use per vehicle, which were driven largely by the aging vehicle population.

The dynamics of aftermarket product growth changed over the next five years (2014 to 2019) as the rate of VIO expansion increased. This was the major contributor to light vehicle annual product growth at a time when the average product use per light vehicle climbed at a slower rate than during the preceding five years.

Growth Overview: 2009 to 2019
Both VIO growth and the increasing use of products per light vehicle contributed to aftermarket product growth between 2009 and 2019.

Over this 10-year span, the number of vehicles in operation increased nearly 17 percent, while the average product sales per light vehicle climbed a total of just under 10 percent.

Without the increase in aftermarket product use per vehicle over this 10-year span, total light vehicle aftermarket product growth would have been considerably lower than what it was.

Product Growth Despite Fewer Miles
This increasing product use per vehicle occurred at a time when the average miles per light vehicle was declining. In other words, vehicles averaged more aftermarket parts use even though they were driven fewer miles.

This underscores the importance of vehicle age to aftermarket product use of the average car and light truck.

Different Story in 2020
COVID-19 caused a sudden drop in 2020 product use per light vehicle. In the 10 years preceding the pandemic, the average car and light truck in the U.S. increased its aftermarket product use by nearly $35, just short of a 10-percent total increase.

That changed abruptly in 2020, as the average vehicle product use dropped 8 percent for the year. While this is a large decline, it was substantially less than the more than 13-percent drop in 2020 car and light truck miles driven.

VIO 2020 Growth
The number of cars and light trucks recorded a slight increase in 2020. As a result, most of the 7 percent overall decrease in car and light truck product sales for 2020 can be attributed to the lower annual product sales per vehicle.

Product Sales for Cars and Light Trucks
During 2020, both cars and light trucks recorded less product use per vehicle than during the previous year.

However, the impact on light trucks was greater than on passenger cars, as a percentage of the 2020 product use per vehicle compared to 2019.

Light trucks continued to average much higher annual product sales per vehicle than passenger cars during 2020, something that has consistently increased over the past 10 years.

2021 Rebound
The rebound in 2021 aftermarket product volume is being generated largely by a sharp gain in aftermarket product use by the average light vehicle on U.S. roads.

While total vehicles in operation (VIO) will achieve little growth in 2021, aftermarket product use per vehicle is soaring, creating virtually all aftermarket product growth for the year.

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