MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.Automotive service technician preferences for the most commonly used parts and vehicle components are concentrated among a few brands, according to a recent Frost & Sullivan Inc. survey.
However, a highly rated brand doesn't always mean that it is most commonly installed on customers' cars.
There are no secret drivers of brand selection that are common across most products, the Frost report noted, indicating the differentiated nature of each market.
Frost surveyed 350 auto techs in independent repair shops and car dealerships in the U.S., with the independents representing 87 percent of respondents.
According to the survey results, motor oil changes were the service performed most, followed by brakes, batteries and tire service. When it comes to choosing a brand, auto techs are more concerned about product-related attributessuch as brand reputation, price, quality and reliabilityand placing slightly less importance on supplier relationships and the least importance on intangible aspects such as past experiences.
In all markets except brake pads, local distributors account for significantly more purchases among installers, the report said. Technicians surveyed tended to purchase brake pads from retailers and programmed distributors. Survey respondents also indicated they are increasingly using internet retailers to purchase tires.
Brands trying to improve their market share should take particular care to prioritize supplying local distributorsespecially in the tire market, according to Frost. Installers source less frequently from specialty distributors, which may indicate a preference for saving time by concentrating their purchases at only a few locations.
Frost also suggested that, in particular, battery brands trying to improve their market share should take special note of the importance of quality that customers place on their products.
Service-related attributesall of which relate directly to parts suppliersare ranked between product and hybrid attributes. Service attributes includ product availability, order accuracy, sales representatives, supplier loyalty program and willingness to make emergency deliveries.
This suggests that technicians do care about having a strong relationship with parts suppliersbut not at the expense of the product, Frost said.
Hybrid attributes of a product, such as customer preference, past experience and warranties, rated lowest overall in influencing the purchase of replacement parts, indicating that installers are less concerned with intangible factors that do not directly affect their businesses, according to the survey.
The hybrid score for motor oil ranked the lowest overall, implying that motor oil brands should prioritize other aspects of their products and customer service relationships, the company said.
Most of those surveyed expect the demand for replacement parts will increase this year due in part to better economic conditions.
Among the top brands of motor oil in the survey, Mobil ranked No. 1 at 24 percent of respondents, followed by Pennzoil (18 percent) and Valvoline (14 percent).
All three brands ranked almost identically for providing high overall satisfaction, which highlights the nonexistence of a relationship between satisfaction rating, installation prevalence and No. 1 ranking, according to the Frost report.
Mobil and Valvoline were installed more often by 29 percent of respondents while Pennzoil followed at 21 percent.
The Wagner brand dominated the brake pad market with the highest rate of installation (33 percent) and most consistent No. 1 ranking by 25 percent of respondents, Frost said.
There was some correlation between installation rates and top rankings evident with the next top brands, the company said: NAPA (18 percent and 9 percent, respectively) and Raybestos (17 percent and 11 percent). All three brands were rated highly for overall satisfaction.
Among the top three battery brands, 53 percent of respondents ranked Interstate Batteries No. 1, followed by AC Delco (9 percent) and NAPA (6 percent). Yet all three brands ranked high for providing overall satisfaction.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said they most prevalently installed Interstate, while 17 percent installed AC Delco and 14 percent installed NAPA batteries.
The top three preferred tire brands in the surveyMichelin, Cooper and Goodyearwere rated highly for providing high overall satisfaction, according to the report. Michelin was rated No. 1 by 28 percent of respondents, followed by Cooper by 18 percent and Goodyear by 13 percent.
Similar to batteries, there was a lack of correlation between a brand being ranked No. 1 and being installed more frequently. Michelin was ranked No. 1 by 28 percent of respondents but installed more often by 38 percent of respondents; Cooper was ranked No. 1 among 18 percent of respondents but installed more often by 33 percent of respondents; and Goodyear, which was ranked tops by 13 percent of respondents, was the most prevalently installed brand, by 39 percent of respondents.