Some applications gradually enter the aftermarket replacement cycle. Others, such as the 2002 Pontiac Grand Am, burst upon the scene, as demonstrated in our snapshot of March 2008 ignition control module (ICM) transactions.
The Grand Am rose 69 positions to fifth place overall in the ICM category. But rather than point to a specific product reliability issue, this recent popularity reflects the typical consumer's approach to vehicle maintenance, according to a technical support specialist for a leading aftermarket supplier. "You're looking at a vehicle that has six years of steady use and perhaps 100,000 to 130,000 miles of service, and yet the owner probably hasn't had the spark plugs and ignition wires replaced," he says. "ICM failures are typically caused by breakdown of the coils, which is related to high secondary resistance. And that's often caused by worn-out plugs and wires."
Failure to perform such preventive maintenance isn't necessarily the fault of the consumer, he adds. "The car companies have basically brainwashed the consumer into believing that underhood maintenance isn't required anymore. And as long as the car still starts, the owner will assume it's true."
Preventive maintenance rarely triggers thermostat replacement; this job is more often related to another repair – from radiator and/or water pump replacement to serious engine work. No significant new trends can be seen in the category's March data, with older-vintage Chevrolet C&K 1500 pickups dominating the top 10.
The latest top 10 applications in the thermostat category are the 2001 Chevrolet Malibu, which rose 14 spots to 10th place, and the 2000 Ford Explorer, falling one spot to eighth place.
The fastest riser in the ball joints category is the 2004 F-250 Super Duty pickup, which moved up 45 positions to 10th place. The 2000 Explorer rose 17 positions to third place, as this popular application enters its "prime replacement age."
No. 1 on this month's list of ball joint applications is the 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, which has risen eight spots since March 2007. One manufacturer speculated that the data reflects multiple lookups for the same repair. "Some technicians are looking specifically for an adjustable or non-adjustable ball joint for this application," he says, and no aftermarket supplier has introduced an OE-style upper ball joint that delivers 0-degree alignment change.
In the ICM category, the 1989 Ford F-100-350 family of pickups dropped out of the top 10 in March. "That's purely a sign of a vehicle that's moved beyond its serviceable life," says one aftermarket manufacturer.
The 1999 and 1998 Ford Explorer models dropped out of the top 10 to 15th and 19th place, respectively, in the thermostat category, as many of these vehicles have undergone their first cooling and/or engine service occasions.
Four Ford applications — the 2001, 1999 and 1998 F-150 pickups and 1998 Ranger pickup – dropped from the top 10 in ball joint transactions. "I would expect the lookups for these applications to level off in the next year as the second or third owners invest in chassis work," says a chassis parts representative. "These trucks still have a lot of life in them from an aftermarket perspective."
METHODOLOGY: The data captured through the Activant Vista market intelligence solution is processed and aggregated on a daily basis through Activant's unique statistical methodology. Collected information includes eCatalog lookups, product availability and sales transactions by vehicle and SKU.
Rod Bayless is the product director for Activant Solutions, Inc. For additional information regarding Activant Vista market data, write to email@example.com. Activant is a leading innovator and the industry standard for information and supply chain technology in the automotive aftermarket.