Having just wrapped up a week in Las Vegas at the AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo) and SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) shows, I have some interesting news to report.
A company called Green Earth Technologies introduced a new high-quality synthetic motor oil made from dead cows. The oil is made from animal fat (beef tallow) using a process that is three times as efficient as that used to make traditional petroleum-based motor oil. What’s more, the green oil is 100% biodegradable, safe and non-toxic. You can even drink the stuff (though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you need a laxative!). For details, visit www.getg.com.
Another new product that caught my eye was the “IntelliStick,” an oil monitoring system that replaces the dipstick with an oil quality sensor and a BlueTooth transponder that talks to a PDA, laptop computer or even a cell phone to let you know when the oil needs to be changed. More information is available at www.intellistick.com.
EQUUS, a leading supplier of DIY scan tools, unveiled its latest products, which now include the ability to capture and upload vehicle fault codes to a special website that helps the user diagnose the fault. The website, www.canobd2.com, provides an explanation for the code(s), a list of possible causes to check, and even provides step-by-step repair instructions (for a $9.95 fee) if the user wants it. OTC is also taking scan tool technology to a new level by offering online scan tool training at its website: http://genisysotc.com/training.php.
Delphi, a leading OEM supplier, says the market for reflashing PCMs in vehicles is growing rapidly and should soon be a $100-million-a-year service opportunity! Delphi says reflashes are becoming a common fix for many driveability and emissions issues because of growing vehicle complexity. The typical PCM in 1997 had 100 lines of software code. Within a couple of years, PCMs in new cars will have 100 million lines of software code! That’s a lot of bits and bytes that can go wrong.
By The Numbers
If you like numbers, the latest FactBook just released by AAIA includes some interesting statistics:
Europe now has the largest vehicle population with 37.6% of the world’s total compared to 31% for the U.S. and 23.4% for Asia.
The total vehicle population in the U.S. in 2006 was 245.4 million vehicles, of which 135 million were cars and 102 million were light trucks.
Vehicle scrap rates are down (around 5% per year), so the average age for all cars is an all-time high of 10.1 years, and 8.8 years for trucks. The average age for domestic cars (Chrysler, Ford and GM makes) is now 11.3 years!
The average annual miles driven for cars was 11,604 in 2006, and 10,210 miles for light trucks. The total number of miles driven annually by all vehicles in the U.S hit a record high of 3 trillion miles. Apparently, higher fuel prices are not causing drivers to drive less. That’s good news for the repair industry.
The aftermarket (parts, accessories and service) is now estimated to be $295 billion a year in the U.S. What’s more, the service segment of the market is estimated to be growing at 3.1% a year.
Some of the fastest growing replacement parts categories include loaded brake calipers (7.5% annual growth), constant velocity driveshafts and antilock brake system parts (7 to 7.4%), and fuel injectors, brake rotors and brake pads (6.5 to 6.8%).
The two biggest trends that are going to have the greatest impact on the parts and service business in the years ahead are hybrid vehicles and diesel engines. Hybrid registrations are growing exponentially as auto makers introduce more and more new hybrid models.
General Motors just introduced its new 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, a full-size SUV with a two-mode full electric, gas or combination drivetrain. GM says the new hybrid powertrain delivers 40% better fuel economy in city driving, and 25% better economy overall. GM says it plans to introduce a new hybrid model every three months for the next three years!
More diesels are coming, too. The recent change in diesel emission standards delayed the introduction of new diesel engine options for most of the auto makers until 2009. Even so, diesel sales are expected to skyrocket in the years ahead.
Delphi said at its AAPEX press conference that 10% of all new cars and light trucks will be equipped with diesel engines within five years. Diesels currently account for about 5% of the light vehicle market today (mostly pickup trucks), but by 2015 that share is expected to grow to 15% or more.
Bosch is also forecasting a bright future for diesels. The company’s new “Denoxtronic” engine control system for diesel engines allows diesel engines to run as clean or cleaner than most gasoline engines. To help get technicians up-to-speed on the latest diesel technology, Bosch is introducing a new web-based training course on direct injection diesel fuel systems.
Mercedes just unveiled a new concept car in Europe that has a “DiesOtto” engine. The powerplant combines features of both a diesel and a gasoline engine into one. The DiesOtto engine starts and idles with normal spark ignition, but uses variable compression to run in sparkless mode when cruising. The turbocharged direct-injection 1.8L engine produces 235 horsepower, which is similar to the much larger V6. Yet it emits less than 130 grams of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per mile, which meets the new European target proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The DiesOtto engine also runs cooler and leaner than a gasoline engine, which reduces NOX emissions and fuel consumption (up to 20% or more).