I recently got back from a road-trip family vacation down south. The drive took us through some beautiful country. The drive also took us past a staggering number of disabled vehicles.
I stopped counting after seeing about 60 vehicles with hoods up, tires blown or pulled over for some other unplanned repair emergency. After seeing so many vehicles this way (and many of them apparently fellow vacationers, judging by the full roof racks and luggage), it got me to thinking: There’s still a whole lot of unperformed maintenance out there. It was right there before my eyes.
Unperformed maintenance was at $50 billion in the late 1990s, up to $67 billion in 2011, according to the 2013 Automotive Aftermarket Status Report published by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). While $67 billion is a big number, that’s not the one that catches my eye. It’s another number tallied by AASA, which is 26 percent. That’s the figure of unperformed maintenance as a percentage of automotive aftermarket potential. In 2008, it was 21 percent. That means more than a quarter of the money the aftermarket could be getting is slipping away. The 2013 report states, “While the automotive aftermarket totaled an estimated $187 billion in 2011, if consumers had performed maintenance they should to keep their vehicles safe, reliable and running efficiently, the aftermarket would have totaled $254 billion.”
I wish I had a copy of the Automotive Aftermarket Status Report on me because I would have stopped to show each and every stranded motorist (Yeah, I’m sure that would have been received well.)
While I drove past the motorists along the side of the highway (they were OK, they had cell phones), I saw dollar signs. Sure, NOW those motorists were going to get their vehicles repaired, but wouldn’t it had been good to get that money a few months ago?
Automotive analysts I talked to recently say motorists often use tax returns to pay for neglected maintenance. Anyone who gets a tax return does it: We think of a new TV, a vacation to spend it on, a new iPad. Whatever. But few people, I’m supposing, ever think months in advance, “Wow! I could get that new fuel pump/battery/rotor I always wanted!” But here’s where a bit of marketing and persistence on our part will pay off: We need to project and remind motorists as an industry that they don’t want to get left by the side of the road. Especially not during that family vacation. We need to teach them that paying attention to maintenance means they won’t have to deal with unexpected hassles later on.
Perhaps we need to market a “vacation package,” where we as an industry give a special inspection to motorists prior to them going on their holiday. It’s a chance to reinforce that we care about them and their vehicles and it’s also a chance to identify sales and take care of problems before they happen.