The aftermarket for light vehicle components and parts in North America is forecast to rise 4.3 percent annually through 2004 to $56 billion. Gains will be restrained by the improving durability of original equipment parts in new light vehicles and by fierce competition that will result in flat or lower prices in most product segments.

These factors will be offset by the rising age of the light vehicle park, as well as by the number of vehicles added to the park during the strong new light vehicle market between 1994 and 1999, which will create aftermarket opportunities for frequently replaced items. The number of vehicle registrations in Mexico is expected to increase at a significant pace, further broadening the market base for replacement parts and components. These and other trends are presented in Automotive Aftermarket in North America, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Clevelandbased industrial market research firm.

Mechanical products, which include nonelectronic or nonelectrical underthehood parts, will continue to be the largest product segment in the aftermarket. Growth for many items in this segment will be limited by the improved durability of OEM products.

Even the more commonly replaced mechanical parts will be impacted by the intense pricing competition among suppliers of these products. The Internet will also increase price competition by providing end users with additional options for parts purchase.

Among the various automotive aftermarket product groups, the best growth prospects will be for electronic parts and components, due to the rising electronic content of the average light vehicle.

Electronic controls and modules will experience strong gains, as will security systems. Gains in aftermarket electronics will be limited by the rising rate of compact disc player installation at the OEM level. Electrical replacement parts demand will slightly outpace the aftermarket in the aggregate, due to steady replacement demand for lighting equipment and batteries. The aftermarket for exterior and structural products will be restrained by the improved quality of originally installed components.

Professional automobile service providers are the dominant distributors of aftermarket products, accounting for over twothirds of sales in 1999. Gains in the professional segment will outpace doityourself demand through 2004, due to the rising complexity of light vehicle repairs, in particular those involving electronics.

These providers will continue to benefit from the rising time consciousness of North American consumers, many of whom are increasingly unwilling to trade off potential leisure time to save money by performing their own service.