Polk outlines trends at AAIA Town Hall at AAPEX

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Tim Rogers, David Portalatin and Mario Gabelli presented the latest financial, industry and consumer trends at the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association’s (AAIA) Town Hall at AAPEX in Las Vegas. The event was hosted by AAIA President Kathleen Schmatz.

Rogers is president of Polk, the event’s sponsor, which is an operating unit of R.L. Polk & Co. His presentation was titled “5 Trends in 5 Minutes” and outlined the following developments in the auto aftermarket:

  1. Light vehicle sales are headed up, but slower than expected.
  2. More light vehicles in the aftermarket is the sweet spot.
  3. There are dramatic shifts in the mix of new vehicle registrations.
  4. No end to parts the proliferation challenge.
  5. OEMs and their dealer networks are an awakening giant.

Polk explained that dealer profits have gone up 60% in the past 24 years. In addition, there are 15% fewer dealerships. These factors will continue to remain significant to the aftermarket.

Portalatin is executive director Industry Analysis with The NPD Group. He explained the major auto trends that have taken place since the recession.

In 2008, consumers began to defer automotive spending because of a lack of funds. In 2009 the trend was to renew, or perform maintenance to keep older cars on the road longer. In 2010 the recession caused consumers to rethink this strategy, leading to robust growth that year.

Portalatin explained that as of October 2011, consumer’s outlook on the economy has grown worse than it was in 2008. Because 70% of consumers he surveyed said they know someone who has been laid-off, consumer pessimism currently persists.

Gabelli is chairman of GAMCO Investors Inc., a widely recognized provider of investment advice. Gabelli said that when he founded GAMCO in 1977, the aftermarket could be summed up as “mature, fragmented and with free cash flow.” He said that today the aftermarket can be summed up the same way – mature, fragmented and with free cash flow.

Gabelli cited a quote from Charles Darwin that applies to the aftermarket – those that adapt to change are the ones that survive. He said that the U.S. needs to rethink its energy dependence and find alternate sources. He also said the country needs to balance its trade deficit with China.

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