In a recent interview about how scrappage and other vehicle trends are affecting the independent aftermarket and dealer service marketing, I was asked "What is the new normal?" Well, of course working for Polk, I instantly talked about the new "normal" as being new vehicle sales in the neighborhood of 11 to 13-million per year. And how the normal is not the 15 to 16 million units that the industry thought it was as recently as two years ago.
However, recently at the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS), I started to question what the new normal really means. I'm considered one of the young guns that is supposed to be tech saavy and in touch with my social media side; however, I still have an "old" way of thinking. I immediately started thinking about how average vehicle ownership length has increased by 21% over the past 9 years, how the average vehicle age at 10.2 years is now higher than it ever was before, how vehicle warranty is increasing and favors the dealers, and many more traditional metrics. Is this the old way of thinking? Should we also be thinking about how the consumer demographic is changing and decisions are being made through social media? How do we incorporate the new way of thinking into our every day operations and make it work for businesses and the consumer? Should we think more about how to get to the Facebook generation (everyone under the age of 65) and talk to them about underperformed maintenance and how it affects their vehicle life, stability and costs?
I think the new normal is not that normal at all, and that we all need to change our focus. Yes, the key indicators will always be there, but we probably need to create new "key" indicators. At GAAS we heard about the new generation of customers and how they are integrated into the "NOW" world more effectively than in any other time in the past. We learned that they are loyal, smart consumers until a product fails or another promises greater functionality. Then they hightail it to the next brand, and leave a trail of comments, status updates and tweets in their path. As an industry, we can capitalize on it. We have the resources to educate our consumers through tools like YouTube. We can contact them proactively about maintaining their cars properly and cost effectively. Knowing the leading indicators such as scrappage, new vehicles sales, length of ownership and average vehicle age is just scratching the surface of being able to plan and be successful in the aftermarket. Maybe it's time to start focusing on the new normal as well.
Posted by Bryan Funke, Director, Sales & Client Services, Aftermarket & Commercial Vehicle Teams, Polk