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Aftermarket ADAS adaption heading in a straight lane toward increased category growth

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 07:00
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As OEM-installed and retrofitted Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) continue to gain popularity, the aftermarket is well-positioned to provide much-needed education and training for installers, repairers and motorists along with benefitting by selling the numerous ad-on products that are becoming available within the category.

“ADAS is among the fastest-growing automotive segments today, and it presents a significant opportunity for aftermarket retrofitting and new vehicle upgrades,” says Chris Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), which has produced an analysis, entitled, Advanced Vehicle Technology Opportunities, offering insights about the category’s prospects.

In 2017 the segment was valued at just under $1 billion, and it is expected to grow to more than $1.5 billion by 2021, according to a SEMA-commissioned study conducted by Ducker Worldwide and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Establishing just what this category actually entails is a topic requiring clarification as both the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) are calling on the industry to precisely define universal nomenclature along with detailing the product lines, properties and capabilities of the equipment. 

At a SEMA-sponsored briefing in January, Chris Gardner, senior vice president of operations at MEMA’s Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), discussed the need for cross-industry collaboration on standardizing ADAS procedures, terminology, training and certification pertaining to business owners and technicians.

AAA’s research reports that there is at least one ADAS feature available on nearly 93 percent of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. Ellen Edmonds, the organization’s public relations manager, points out that as ADAS units achieve broader acceptance, “it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to have a solid understanding of their functionality.”

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Noting that by way of example that there are 40 separate designations for automatic emergency braking systems and 20 monikers apiece for adaptive cruise control and assorted camera applications, Edmonds says that “with the current variety of marketing names and lack of consensus by industry regulatory groups it has been difficult for consumers to discern what features a vehicle has and how they actually work.”

In conjunction with preparing a list of proposed comprehensive product descriptions, AAA is embarking on a plan to ensure that the motoring public properly grasps the performance properties and qualities of the various ADAS products coming into the marketplace.

For aftermarket businesses, conducting ADAS classes may be a service that’s welcomed by your customers because “there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of ADAS technologies and their limitations,” says Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

And nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of the technology’s limitations or incorrectly thought that the system could accurately detect vehicles passing at high speeds along with bicycles and pedestrians. “In reality, the technology can only detect when a vehicle is traveling in a driver’s blind spot,” Yang explains, “and many systems do not reliably detect pedestrians or cyclists.”

Yang further observes that “the prospect of self-driving cars is exciting, but we aren’t there yet.” In addition, roughly one in six vehicle owners in the AAA’s survey didn’t know whether or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

“When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths,” Yang says. “However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems.”

Business readiness
At the fall SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Brandmotion’s aftermarket ADAS lines were attracting enthusiastic attention from the attendees. “Our booth is always popular at SEMA because we spend a lot of money and time on innovation; people want to see what we are offering next,” says company president Jeff Varick.

“We are seeing growth in a few categories,” he reports. “Radar blind spot is the ADAS technology that most consumers are aware of, and it’s growing the fastest. Backup cameras are down, but collision avoidance systems are seeing small growth.”

Brandmotion consistently wins SEMA awards, and in 2018 its radar system clinched Best New Truck & SUV Product honors along with other accolades.

A factor holding back even higher ADAS sales is a simple lack of adequate consumer awareness, according to Varick. “They just don’t know you can add ADAS systems to an existing vehicle,” he says. “That’s why I started the Vision Zero Automotive Network (www.visionzero.us) to educate consumers that this technology exists and it works.”

The category’s prospects are on a positive path. “I think it’s going to grow, and the savvy retailer is going to recognize that, invest in a few product categories -- whether it’s sensors, backup cameras, blind spot or collision avoidance -- and they are going to experiment with the marketing and store placement,” Varick says. “And they are going to educate their staff and learn. Eventually they will create new sales.”

He encourages the industry to “educate yourself and then educate the customer. Adopt a mindset that through your efforts you can save lives in your own community; even if it’s just one life, you will most likely make a difference.”

“In a nutshell,” says SEMA’s Mike Imlay, “FCW (forward collision warning) systems are already proving their safety potential and dramatically cutting accidents, injuries and deaths on the highways.” OEMs have stepped up deployment of these systems, with the goal of making them standard on all new vehicles by 2022.

“Aftermarket systems tend toward lower ‘passive’ complexity, providing an alert or warning without affecting vehicle braking or control. Still, consumer demand for passive aftermarket systems is expected to climb as buyers seek simple, cost-effective alternatives for their lower-trim vehicles and older models,” Imlay says.

“Current aftermarket suppliers are limited to a handful of major players, but their number is expected to increase as consumer demand grows. In short, FCW and other ADAS technologies are not only here to stay but also will soon impact every segment of the aftermarket, from supplier to jobber,” Imlay forecasts. “Now is the time to evaluate your business readiness for this technological revolution.”

“Merchants are looking at that, but they’re looking at it very carefully,” cautions Chris Chesney, senior director of training at the Advance Auto Parts’ Carquest Technical Institute (CTI). Prior to entering this category it’s imperative to obtain the proper training and product knowledge – especially as it applies to correctly calibrating any ADAS equipment applied to a customer’s vehicle.

In some situations with certain products “the cars they’re being attached to are not designed to carry them,” he says.

“Anytime you’re talking about safety systems you’re talking about liability,” says Chesney. “They have to be properly calibrated and aimed.”

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