For the past three years, Frost & Sullivan's Customer Research and Automotive and Transportation teams have partnered to survey full-time automotive technicians to measure their brand perceptions of various products used on a regular basis. More specifically, the survey assessed the overall brand perceptions, feature importance, brand purchase decision makers/influencers, and future brand intentions for automotive batteries, motor oil products, and tires within automotive garages/repair shops throughout the U.S.
Not surprisingly, among the three product categories covered (batteries, motor oil, and tires), automotive technicians continue to be the primary purchase decision makers/influencers in garages/repair shops, which is likely due to their regular exposure to the products. For all three product categories, quality remains an important attribute among automotive technicians. Furthermore, despite the fact that these product markets are fairly competitive and similar by product features (i.e., quality, reliability, performance, etc.), product features still appear to serve as a differential factor for brand preferences.
"In mature automotive replacement parts markets, such as those of automotive batteries and motor oils, one would expect product quality to be standard across the top brands, and service-related features to become the differentiating factor, in which a top brand might make its mark above competitors," comments Tonya Fowler, Global Director of Frost & Sullivan's Customer Research team. "However, among automotive experts, product-related attributes such as quality remain a cornerstone of a product. Given their experience, they know the difference between 'good' and the 'best'. Adding service features likely will not budge their opinions on the core product."
Overwhelmingly, automotive technicians purchase more replacement parts from program distributors, on average, than from other distribution channel sources. However, while automotive technicians prefer some of the top, nationally-known distributors (i.e., NAPA, CARQUEST, Advance Auto, AutoZone, etc.), regional and/or local distributors garner nearly as much of the replacement parts business.
Although lagging much behind program distributors, auto parts retail chains are competitive with vehicle manufacturer dealerships for the replacement parts distribution business. Among those automotive technicians who purchase replacement parts from vehicle manufacturer dealerships, the majority regularly purchase OEM replacement parts from dealers of domestic vehicle brands.
"Automotive technicians do spend most of their time on domestic vehicles, and domestic vehicles have the highest application coverage by aftermarket brands,” comments Mary-Beth Kellenberger, Global Aftermarket Program Manager with Frost & Sullivan’s Automotive & Transportation team. “As the import vehicle population grows, aftermarket application coverage is improving, yet automotive technicians continue to be apprehensive about aftermarket import part quality."
According to the survey, automotive technicians are experts in their field and know what brands work and which ones do not. Thus, brand loyalty is strong with the top brands, and it is unlikely that new product brands are easily accepted and must therefore prove their worth. While service is an important factor, automotive technicians place more emphasis on the product as a stand alone. However, alignment with the right distribution channel could make or break a product brand.
This survey was conducted by Frost & Sullivan's Customer Research team, working in conjunction with Frost & Sullivan’s Automotive & Transportation team. Specifically, the Customer Research team conducts independent, unbiased research among end users to evaluate and measure companies and trends in the market.
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