Vehicle owners continue to neglect performance chemical maintenance

Jan. 1, 2020
Consumers are neglecting minor automobile maintenance involving performance chemicals, even as they continue to buy wiper blades, bulbs, fuses and other products.
Consumers are neglecting minor automobile maintenance involving performance chemicals, even as they continue to buy wiper blades, bulbs, fuses and other products.

That is among the conclusions of Frost & Sullivan’s latest web-based survey of 1,098 U.S. vehicle owners, which asked them about their attitudes and purchase intentions toward a menu of maintenance services and retail replacement parts.

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In the current economic environment, motorists continue to take their cars and light trucks for regular oil and filter changes, as well as tire rotation and balance services. Ninety-six percent of all respondents confirmed they had their oil changed in 2011.

The problem for performance chemical suppliers comes when respondents are asked which vehicle parts not combined with any service they have purchased in the last 12 months.

Fifty-nine percent said they had purchased windshield wipers, but only six percent stated they had purchased performance chemicals.

Performance chemicals also rank below tires, bulbs, air filters, batteries and fuses in components purchased. All of these products have a longer service life than performance chemicals, which should be flushed every two years. This includes brake fluid and power steering fluid.

It highlights a clear question for performance chemical suppliers – how do you get consumers to start using your products?

A few clues are found in answers to the follow-up survey questions.

When asked which performance chemicals they use, 16 percent said they use fuel injector cleaners, and 13 percent said they use fuel treatments.

Five percent or less said they use power steering treatments, engine treatments, oil additives, brake cleaners or leak stoppers.

Among those using fuel injector cleaners, fuel treatments and octane boosters, more than a quarter adds them every 5,000 miles or less, and over half do so every 10,000 miles or less.

So, performance chemicals that enhance and clean the fuel system have a loyal customer base and are used regularly. Consumers are willing to pay for products that have a noticeable improvement in fuel efficiency or otherwise improve the performance of their vehicle.

However, products that do not improve fuel efficiency or enhance horsepower are under-used in the aftermarket.

The challenge for suppliers of these other performance chemicals is to educate consumers on how regular use of their products fits into a schedule of total vehicle maintenance.  It is very important to address this issue, as these flushes are usually not part of the vehicle manufacturers’ recommended service schedule. Additionally, most service chains in the aftermarket do not have a strong value proposition to support performance chemical maintenance.

The total market size could double or even triple if more motorists would flush their brake and power steering fluid every second or third time they add antifreeze as part of their regularly scheduled do-it-yourself maintenance.

However, without new users, it will become increasingly difficult for market competitors to grow.

Stephen Spivey is Program Leader for Frost & Sullivan’s Automotive & Transportation Aftermarket research practice. He focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies, and market behavior in the global automotive aftermarket.

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