The Activant Report: key products sales activity

Jan. 1, 2020
As a "data guy," I sometimes find it difficult to understand what a particular set of data points mean within a given aftermarket product category.
Activant ignition knock sensors rack and pinion crankshaft seals

What's Hot

As a "data guy," I sometimes find it difficult to understand what a particular set of data points mean within a given aftermarket product category. Then, once I call either a manufacturer or distributor for more detail, there's often an "aha!" moment. In other cases, however, a specific report might lead to more questions from my sources – they, too, can't quickly determine what's behind an emerging trend. This month's data snapshots from the Activant® Vista® solution – which aggregates electronic catalog transactions from a broad panel of aftermarket distributors – offer some "aha!" moments, as well as one case where the results are less clear.

Let's tackle the more challenging category first. In the view of at least one seal manufacturer, the industry's "crankshaft seal" part category is overly broad. A "crank seal" could be a "rear main bearing seal" or, in many OHC engines, a front seal located within the timing cover. "Very few rear main seals are sold on an individual basis – they're mostly sold as part of complete rebuild kits," explained a representative of one seal manufacturer. "So, most product lookups in this category – especially if they're for overhead cam applications – are probably on the front of the engine."

That's precisely the case in our snapshot of September eCatalog transactions. In fact, each of the top 10 crank seal applications is a Honda, with eight of them Accord models. Perhaps more interesting is the age range of these applications – 1992 to 1999. "These cars are probably seeing at least their first and probably their second timing belt replacement," the representative says. "There's certainly not a product reliability issue that's driving this demand – it's more a case that these vehicles still have a lot of life left in them."

Our second category, ignition knock sensors, is less complicated. Two shop owners and one manufacturer confirm that the No. 1 application in September – the 1998 Subaru Legacy – is known to "consume" these sensors. Why the sudden rise (from 14th to first place since September 2007) for the 1998 model year is less clear.

"We've had several Legacy models that have needed those," says one shop owner. "Sometimes, though, you might assume, based on past experience, that the sensor is bad when you have a driveability problem. Maybe a lot of techs are jumping the gun on that diagnosis." The fastest-rising knock sensor application is the 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup, which moved up from 36th position in September 2007 to seventh place this year. To confirm this trend, we also ran the numbers on a regional basis – in the southern U.S. – and found that the 2002 Silverado had risen 13 positions to No. 1.

"That's a pretty strong signal that distributors need to be sure they have those sensors for the 2000 through 2003 models years just to be safe," says one manufacturer's representative.

Power steering gears, our third category, take incredible abuse. The top-ranked application in September – the 1999 Ford Taurus – is especially prone to issues due the fact that a comparatively large percentage of these vehicles were originally in rental fleets.

In addition, members of the International Automotive Technicians Network (IATN) have reported chronic power steering problems on the 1999 Taurus/Sable models. Speculation is that often a previous repairer has failed to properly bleed the system, or that the rack unit isn't airtight at the boots.

The fastest riser, the 2005 Dodge Caravan, hasn't shown up among IATN members as particularly problematic. "I don't know why anyone would be surprised," says one shop owner. "Just consider how many curbs those minivans have hit over the past three years!"

What's Not

In the crank seal category, the 2000 and 1997 Honda Civic models fell out of the top 10 in September. But fear not — the seal manufacturer's representative insists they'll be back as these vehicles pass on to second and third owners.

The fastest falling ignition knock sensor applications were the 1999 Nissan Maxima, 1995 Nissan Altima and 1993 Chevrolet C/K 1500-3500 pickups, each dropping out of the top 10 in September. The Maxima and Altima models are still well represented within the top 10, however, with six model years ranking from 2nd to 10th place overall.

In the rack and pinion gear category, the 1998 Toyota Camry, Ford Windstar and Ford Taurus fell to 11th, 12th and 13th positions, respectively, and the '95 Camry was 14th in September. In the cases of the Camry models, according to one jobber, the decline likely won't continue. "Those cars seem to last forever," he says. "You'll have another chance to replace the rack before the vehicles get scrapped."

Methodology: The parts demand data captured through the Activant Vista solution is processed and aggregated on a daily basis through Activant's unique statistical methodology. Collected information includes eCatalog lookups, product availability and sales transactions by vehicle and SKU. For a complete analysis of these three categories, please visit

Rod Bayless is the product director for Activant Solutions, Inc. For additional information regarding Activant Vista market data, write to [email protected]. Activant is a leading innovator and the industry standard for information and supply chain technology in the automotive aftermarket.