While owners of light trucks primarily purchase running boards and steps for their aesthetic appeal, the functionality of these products is an equally important factor. The combination of these two elements has been instrumental in sustaining end-user interest in these accessories. However, unit shipments are likely to decline over the next five to seven years as truck owners’ preferences shift from large, heavy accessories to smaller, lighter ones.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (automotiveandtransportation.frost.com), North American Light Truck Running Board and Step Aftermarket, reveals that this aftermarket earned revenues of $149.2 million in 2005 and estimates this to decline to $144.2 million in 2012.
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“The overall light truck running board and step aftermarket expects to experience a marginal decline between the years 2006 and 2012,” notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Rahul Ganju. “Factors expected to contribute to this decline include reduced sales of light trucks, high original equipment manufacturer (OEM) penetration and low brand awareness.”
Competition in the aftermarket has intensified following the entry of OEMs, while the growing participation of low-cost offshore manufacturers in countries such as China is leading to severe price pressures within the aftermarket.
Limited entry barriers have enabled these manufacturers to sell directly to warehouse distributors (WDs), retailers and end users in the United States and Canada. This has resulted in diminished profit margins and aftermarket brand value for North American manufacturers.
The challenge for aftermarket manufacturers lies in sustaining their growth, despite the projected decline in the market. This might require them to constantly innovate and develop new styles of running boards and steps, while keeping track of the current trends in OEM styling and accessorizing. They also need to devise aggressive marketing strategies to address the threat posed by offshore suppliers.
The absence of patent protection for running boards and steps designed and produced in North America is another significant challenge as it leaves them vulnerable to plagiarism, especially by companies in developing countries. Seeking patents for product designs, features and processes could help manufacturers face this challenge and differentiate their products from those of competitors. However, this may not be a feasible option for the smaller aftermarket manufacturers due to the high costs involved.
With the constant threat of duplicate products, strong brand positioning and brand differentiating strategies are becoming increasingly important for aftermarket manufacturers.
“Creating differentiating features, building brand awareness, and educating installers, retailers and WDs about the quality of their products compared to competing ones are some of the ways they can achieve better brand positioning,” says Ganju. “The focus of all these strategies needs to be on ensuring that end users are well informed and aware of products’ distinctive features when making critical purchasing decisions.”
North American Light Truck Running Board and Step Aftermarket, part of the Automotive & Transportation Growth Partnership Services, provides a detailed analysis of this aftermarket, which includes major product types, distribution flow, and unit shipment and revenue forecasts. It provides the revenues by product type, geographic region, and as a percent of market share, and includes extensive pricing, demand, and competitive analyses. Interviews with the press are available.
Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. The company's industry expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services, and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities. Frost & Sullivan serves an extensive clientele that includes Global 1000 companies, emerging companies, and the investment community by providing comprehensive industry coverage that reflects a unique global perspective, and combines ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics.