FRANKFURT - The aftermarket is being forced to restructure because of changes in the new car market, according to participants at Frankfurt's biennial Automechanika.
More reliable cars mean the amount of repair work has fallen, although the amount of servicing work has increased, according to Rolf Leuchtenberger, president of the ZDK, the German motor traders' association.
On average German motorists saved DM23 ($13.50) on service and repairs in 1997 compared with 1996. Motorists spent DM 285 on repair work in 1997, a fall of DM58, and DM435 on service, up DM35.
But in spite of growth in the aftermarket this year, small and medium sized distributors are feeling squeezed by consolidation in the automotive retail sector.
Among the other sectors seeing rapid change as a result of movements in the new car market is the air-conditioning business.
Ingo Alpheus, spokesman for German HVAC supplier Behr, said the rise in factory fitted air-conditioning had reduced demand for aftermarket fitment. But he added that overall the company's aftermarket turnover was growing because of the rapid increase in the number of repair sets sold.
The growth in the manufacturing fitment rate of air-conditioning is more than offsetting the improvements made in the quality of HVAC systems, said Alpheus.
The flipside of the air-conditioning boom coin is a continued fall in sunroof fitment rates, according to Webasto, one of the market leaders.
The only sector still growing is canvas sunroofs for small cars, said a Webasto spokesman.
But Webasto is seeing strong growth from its auxiliary car heater business as a result of the increasing sales of efficient TDI engines.
The exhaust system aftermarket business is helped by higher replacement demand for expensive catalysts, said a spokesman for exhaust specialist Bosal.
The replacement market has been slow to take off because of the high quality of the early catalytic converters, which have exceeded their expected life.
Pricing pressure overall in the exhaust business remains intense, according to Bosal Director Karel Bos.
'If there is a significant amount of over-capacity in that market, and there is more and more concentration of customer groups, you'll find the pricing is always under pressure,' Bos said.
Bos, whose company also supplies towbars and roof racks to the aftermarket, sees the aftermarket moving closer to the pattern of the original equipment business.
'I think we'll move toward a more OE type of business,' said Bos, 'with much less stock, much more just-in-time, leaning out that whole value chain.'
'There are need differences in the durability of the product, but the quality system to ensure that you deliver the specification to the customer is no different.'
Tighter legislative requirements are expected to give a boost to the aftermarket business of Pierburg, the engine specialist.
Pierburg, which will merge its aftermarket businesses with Kolbenschmidt in the next few months, supplies exhaust gas recirculators to major carmakers in Germany.
A survey released by the Messe Frankfurt, the organisers of Automechanika, claimed German car buyers were not willing to pay a premium for more environmentally friendly cars.
Of new car buyers interviewed by German survey company GfK, 53 percent did not want to pay anything extra for more environmentally friendly cars. A further 28 percent were only willing to pay up to DM 250 extra.
Electronics were prominent in many of the new aftermarket products, from semi-automatic clutches to security systems. Navigation systems and telematics were identified as markets of the future for the auto trade.