Consumers are feeling the pinch at the pump still, even though gas prices have dipped below the $3 a gallon level we’ve seen for several months. David Portalatin says the aftermarket is not out of the woods just yet.
Portalatin, director of industry analysis for market research firm The NPD Group, told AAPEX attendees Tuesday morning that while consumers might reverse short-term driving patterns, permanent changes are less likely to be changed. Those changes include purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle or working from home, relocating closer to work or even finding a new job.
“We find that some people have made changes that they did not just make over night,” Portalatin says. “They considered these changes over a period of time.”
The wildcard in the equation, he adds, is how long gas prices will stay down and if they will stay down.
|David Portalatin talks about the 2009 aftermarket outlook at AAPEX on Tuesday.|
Consumers also have changed other parts of their lives, according to information Portalatin shared with AAPEX attendees. The NPD surveyed 1,363 consumers and found they not only changed work patterns, but also have changed shopping patterns.
“The most important thing is that consumers clearly are feeling the pinch right now. They’re highly motivated to do anything that’s going to give them economic relief,” Portalatin says. “Interestingly enough, that doesn’t mean buying the least expensive thing or foregoing expenditures.”
That’s good news for the aftermarket. The NPD study shows that more than half of the respondents check tire pressure, 37 percent change air filters and 23 percent replace fuel filters. They also change their oil more often, use fuel additives or oil additives or replaced their oxygen sensors, among other things.
Portalatin reports that people are keeping their vehicles longer, one reason these acts are taken. Also, people are now very motivated to get as good of gas mileage as they can and optimize performance.