The trend of consumers' keeping vehicles that are 11 or more years old "is not going away for quite awhile. People have revalued the older car," Mr. Portalatin said.
Quality products and services carry more weight in their purchase decisions than price alone, according to survey results. However, Mr. Portalatin noted that the aftermarket is chasing declining unit volume by discounting prices and putting "everything on sale all the time."
Opportunities for '14
Mr. Portalatin told attendees about three "consumer realities" culled from NPD surveys that offer opportunities for tire dealerships and repair shops to increase business in 2014:
- Automotive spending is (still) a top consumer priority.
"It's not something that in most cases is discretionary. It's not something they can put off for very long. It's something that they have to do. And so you have an opportunity to engage consumers with products and services that are very important to them and products and services that actually create economic value for them by helping them to save money over the long haul," he said.
About 60 percent of the money consumers spend — other than on house payments and other obligations — goes toward two essentials: "We got to eat and we got to drive," he said. "Those two things are the dominant things driving what consumers spend."
However, recession-scarred consumers are still cutting back on overall spending.
"The reality today is even though there are areas of some economic recovery, the simple truth is that consumers continue to be in cutback mode," he said, noting, "Overall, about 34 percent are trying to spend less…consumers are really trying to cut back in most areas, but the areas where they are likely to say, 'I may actually need to invest a little more money,' are areas like vehicle repair or vehicle purchase, where it might be the most economic thing they can do to help the family budget by repairing that existing vehicle and keeping it on the road a little bit longer."
- New car sales are increasing.
"I think there is a lot of concern, rightfully so, that all of the lift that all of you in this room had had over the aging vehicle trend and the decline in new car sales over the past five years may be coming to an end," he told attendees at the seminar. "What I want to share with you today is that new car sales and the revaluing of aging cars are creating some unique selling opportunities.
"It's not an either/or scenario. It's actually both. Some of you in this room are in categories like appearance and accessories-related categories that new car owners are a little more enthusiastic about. Believe it or not, new car owners are more enthusiastic about doing a lot of routine maintenance items. So new car sales can provide some lift in some categories.
"But just because we're going to sell some 16 million or so new cars does not mean that the opportunity with these older vehicles is leaving us. In fact there is still a tremendous amount of opportunity around old cars."