As temperatures rise, the motivation of automotive enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers follows suit, with performance enhancers, vehicle modifications and minor repairs boosting summer sales in the aftermarket.
“I think it tends to be a cyclical business in the sense that a lot of people do repair work, typically on the do-it-yourself (DIY) side during the warmer months,” says Graham Payne, managing director with Capstone Financial Group.
Easier maintenance repairs — like oil changes, headlights and windshield wiper changes — will increase, as will more complicated jobs like performance brakes, ignition work, air intake systems, engine modifications and electronics. The reason? DIYers can spend more time working on their vehicles outside.
“A big reason people invest time in their car is the weather. It is a nice activity, an outdoor activity, and when you get to more complex repairs, the more advanced DIYers will invite their friends over, have a case of beer and spend time on a hobby they enjoy,” says Mary-Beth Kellenberger, Automotive & Transportation consultant with Frost & Sullivan.
And the heat not only encourages people to work on their vehicles, but also brings more issues to owners’ attention, says Keith Brownlee, owner of Brownlee Distributing Co., Inc. in Clinton Township, Mich.
“We see a sales increase in the summer. In the winter when you have the windows closed and the heater running, you can’t hear those squeaks and grinds,” he says.
Underhood maintenance is not the only priority of enthusiasts during the summer months — physical car appearance items also return high sales figures.
“The spring and summer in the aftermarket is really about, ‘Look at my car,’” Kellenberger says. “You will have that when it is nice outside. People will take a step back and say, ‘What does my car need to look nice?’ In the spring and summer you see more advanced modifications coming out.”
The Fuel Factor
The chokehold on discretionary income will not be enough to completely squash vehicle spending. But, it will typically force people either to save longer and buy fewer quality parts or buy cheaper parts with less quality.
And while drivers spend money preparing their vehicles for daily winter travel in bad weather, summer brings the maintenance and repair items that ensure a car is ready for a long family vacation, Kellenberger says. But fuel costs are forcing many people to drive less during the long summer weekends, causing those general maintenance items to fall from owners’ spending priority list.
“In our business, it is replacement parts as they go bad. A guy doesn’t replace his brakes until they go bad,” says Hamilton Burnett, general manager of General Parts Corporation in Knoxville, Tenn. “I think the big industry that is going to be hurt is the recreation industry, because the money you spend there is extra money, and now people don’t have extra money. But our business overall remains pretty consistent.”