Restyling and Car-Care 2021 Market Trends
Emerging From the Pandemic, a Vibrant Segment Remains Robust
By Douglas McColloch
For builders, car-care and restyling products are essential tools in the arsenal of customization and maintenance. They can provide upgrades to OE paint, glass and chrome. They can dress up an interior or refine an exterior, often at a reasonable cost. And they’re available in a wide range of parts, applications and price points, offering useful products and services to nearly any enthusiast.Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the market remained strong throughout 2020. While automotive retailers had a tough time overall for the year, the category of car-care and restyling products was a bright spot. According to the fall 2020 edition of the “SEMA State of the Industry” report, car-care and restyling products registered double-digit point-of-sales gains over 2019, with pickup accessories leading the way.
By itself, the car-care treatment segment represents a $1.85 billion market, according to the “2020 SEMA Market Report.” Considering that many products in the category are relatively inexpensive and can be installed or applied without the need of special tools, it should come as no surprise that enthusiasts sheltering at home took advantage of the extra downtime to treat their vehicles to a little freshening or some preventive care.
For this report, we contacted a number of industry experts. The following is a compilation of their insights and observations on the current state of the market and its outlook going forward.
What’s Moving the Market
A recent study by market research firm Grand View Research valued the global car-care market at $10.36 billion in 2020, with a forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3% from 2021 to 2028. According to the report, this forecasted growth is attributable to increased global auto sales, an expected rise in consumer disposable income, and innovations in car-care techniques and applications.
While the pandemic may have negatively impacted certain segments of the aftermarket, many of our car-care sources saw a silver lining.
“It may have caused some companies to struggle, but the combination of people being home, having more time and being concerned about cleanliness has proven to be very beneficial for us,” said Peter Taraborelli, communications manager for consumer brands at Stoner International. “Supply-chain issues continue to dog production, but as a whole, we are excited about the future of the market.”
The overall state of the industry is “as strong as it’s ever been,” said Adam Pitale, founder and chief detailer of Adams Polishes. “We’ve seen tremendous growth the last few years, and I think that people are spending a lot of their newfound leisure time in DIY projects like remodeling their houses and detailing their cars, so it’s been great for our business.”
Many of the products most favored by consumers in recent years continued to exert a strong pull in 2020.
“We continue to see growth for both window tint and paint-protection film,” said Pam Feese, channel development manager at Eastman. “During the pandemic, window tint in particular has seen very strong demand from consumers as they seek to customize their vehicles for style and comfort. Paint-protection film continues to grow, with new innovations in performance and color making it easier for consumers to keep their vehicles looking cleaner or to add accent colors while still helping to protect the paint.”
Pitale pointed to ceramic coatings as a continued strong seller, and for his company, graphene ceramics, the latest technology in the ceramics family.
“They’ve been the biggest mover over the last 12 months, and they’re still on the way up,” he said. “People really like to put something on their car where the durability is measured in years, not months, and it gives users the ability to wash and dry their cars more easily and reduce scratching while getting a higher gloss.”
The Pandemic’s Influence on Consumer Habits
With shelter-in-place orders came increased consumer reliance on digital (online) shopping resources, and with that the need for companies to reinvent the way they market themselves to the public.
“We’ve witnessed the value of creating the right consumer experience, and that continues to be an important way in which our customers differentiate themselves,” Feese said. “The ability to make online appointments is growing, and that experience encompasses everything from what consumers see online when doing their research on where to buy to how they can book appointments online, the experience of installations—the focus is on a quality installation—and finally post-installation, such as taking time to follow up to promote customer satisfaction.”
Additionally, the increase in online shopping and the ascendance of social media as a marketing tool have made would-be buyers more product-savvy and less reticent to call out inferior products or inflated claims on their preferred channels.
“Consumers have access to the combined knowledge of the internet, which means they’re smarter when it comes to spotting dishonesty,” Taraborelli explained. “What do products actually contain? Are they true ceramic? Do they contain true graphene in a quantity that is worth the price? Does your coating actually last 1,000 washes or more? True enthusiasts can smell a lie, and they have no problem calling it out.”
Points of origin have also assumed greater importance in consumer buying preferences.
“We have noticed more consumers asking where products are manufactured,” Taraborelli said. “They also want to know what is in them and if there is someone who can answer their questions on how to best use the products.”
Challenges and Opportunities
Looking forward, a number of our sources stressed the importance of providing a user experience that encompasses more channels than a simple point-of-sale interaction.
“We’ve found in our consumer research that providing an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations and creates trust is paramount,” Feese said. “One of the ways our customers enjoy learning is through interaction with their peers, and we have sought ways to share examples of customer experiences. Additionally, we have utilized third-party thought leaders in consumer experiences to share insights and practical knowledge with our customers. Businesses that successfully create this experience and continually seek to enhance it will grow through gaining new and maintaining repeat customers.”
Pandemic sanitation protocols and consumer expectations of a hygienically safe workplace environment also likely need to be factored into the business model for the foreseeable future.
“The focus on cleanliness and sanitization probably won’t go away for awhile,” Taraborelli noted.
Multiple sources cited supply-chain disruptions as an ongoing challenge to the industry, albeit one that could be turned to an advantage for companies willing to make a paradigm shift.
“Supply-chain issues could continue for several years, but that could be a blessing in disguise,” Taraborelli said. “It might mean people wanting to maintain the vehicle they have instead of buying new.”
In any event, he said, the success stories could come from the companies that can survive, adapt and continue to turn out reliable products.
Even with the looming challenges, our sources were overwhelmingly optimistic overall for the future of the industry.
“The DIY segment is just growing,” Pitale said. “You see it on the DIY shows on TV. You see it in home renovations, and people are doing a lot more to restore their own cars. I think people are finding therapeutic qualities in taking care of their own stuff. Doing your own detailing can give you a pretty nice buzz.”
Feese said that her company remains optimistic that its window tint and paint-protection film segments will continue to grow.
“We have been and will continue to be launching new products in both categories throughout 2021,” she said.
Taraborelli summed up: “Our hope is that consumers continue to do their own research and choose the products that fit their price range and their need for reliability. American-made products that are guaranteed and have a good customer support system will hopefully see continued growth."