By Douglas McColloch
Restyling and Car-Care Market Trends
New Parts, Products and Applications for a Growing Marketplace
Each November, North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the annual SEMA Show is ground zero for the car-care and restyling industries. Show attendees can see the latest restyling products, learn about the newest car-care technologies, meet their favorite celebrities and observe product demonstrations.
For most builder-enthusiasts, car-care and restyling products are among the most indispensable tools for customizing a vehicle. They can provide added measures of protection for paint, glass and chrome. They can lend upgrades to interior comfort and optimize exterior shine. Many of the most popular products can be purchased without breaking the bank. They’re available nearly everywhere that auto parts are sold—and even some places they’re not, such as in neighborhood car washes or convenience stores.
It’s no surprise that these products are found at so many retail points of sale. According to the 2019 “SEMA Market Report,” fully two-thirds of car-care products are still purchased at traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Altogether, the disparate products of the car-care aftermarket comprise a $1.8 billion segment in annual sales, and the market is poised to expand worldwide in the coming decade. Global market value is estimated to rise from $11.8 billion in 2019 to $16.8 billion by 2027, according to a recent survey published by market-research firm Research and Markets.
For this report, we contacted a number of experts in the car-care products industry representing manufacturers of car-care treatments and related products. The following is a compilation of their insights and observations on the current state of the market and its outlook going forward.
Vinyl wraps have long been popular with enthusiasts in that they allow the owner to personalized a vehicle with minimal shop time and at comparatively low expense versus the cost of a custom paint job, plus they have an average shelf live of five to 10 years.
Products and Processes: What’s Moving the Market
Two of the strongest consumer preferences that were mentioned by a number of our sources can be summed up by the phrases “quick and easy” and “all in one.” Bo Kessing, senior brand manager for Rust-Oleum, said that consumers want “a quick, easy and inexpensive way to transform their vehicles with premium, high-gloss finishes.”
A number of our industry sources pointed to paint-protection film (PPF) and related products as future market drivers.
“We still see a lot of traditional restyling products—leather interior, heated seats, remote start,” said Auto Additions Vice President Josh Poulson, “but the film business—window tint, clear matte protection and vinyl wrapping—has really started taking off. Blackout packages are also huge, where you maybe just wrap the roof of the car or the hood of an SUV more in the form of ‘accent’ wrapping rather than a whole body.”
For restylers, the ascendance of overlanding presents an opportunity to expand into a new market niche, as ICD Design President and CEO Paul Ghany explained.
“The SUV market is a good one for us because of the new push to make these vehicles more rugged and oriented toward outdoor adventure with more of an ‘off-road’ look,” he said. “That’s the direction everyone’s going right now, especially for SUVs. Everyone’s looking for camping gear and products for the outdoor lifestyle market.
“Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are a growing part of the business,” Poulson adds, “but they’re not going gangbusters the way everyone was predicting. A lot of that is because we work on newer vehicles, and a lot of those models are coming with that stuff. But we still do ADAS installations on a daily basis, whereas a year or two ago we were doing it on a weekly basis.”
Car-care and cleaning products—creams, coatings, polishes, waxes and accessories with numerous interior and exterior applications—comprise a $1.8 billion market, according to the 2019 “SEMA Market Report.”
Into the Future: Challenges and Opportunities
One challenge facing the restyling industry in particular is the proliferation of ADAS on original-equipment vehicle platforms and the need to maintain compliance after modifications are made.
“We constantly have to think about, ‘Are you covering up a sensor that now can’t function properly, or are you lifting a truck so that now the sensors don’t work?’” Poulson noted. “The learning curve is steep, and a lot of it comes down to in-house testing on our end because the manufacturers haven’t always been able to get the R&D out to installers.”
On the other hand, Poulson noted that improvements in aftermarket product quality allow for greater amounts of freedom for installers.
“Manufacturers have done a great job of making products that we can do more with,” he said. “We might wrap a chrome bumper now, whereas we would never attempt that for warranty reasons years ago. The product has gotten better, installation has gotten a little easier, and it’s allowed us the opportunity to do more creative things.”
Poulson also sees continued growth in the PPF sector—in particular, new products that provide protection for increasingly large original-equipment infotainment screens.
“We protect our cell phones, but we’re not protecting this $5,000 screen that can easily get scratched or damaged over time,” he said. “There’s the opportunity now for dealerships to do a lot of preloading and install them ahead of time.”
More than one source felt that ceramic coatings and other paint-protection products would continue to gain strength in the marketplace, with Poulson forecasting that “a lot more ‘protective’ restyling products like those are going to be big over the next three to five years.”
The continued popularity of the truck/off-road market, the perceived increase in consumer demand of electric vehicles, and the continued proliferation of ADAS systems all hold opportunities for future growth among restylers.
“For the future, we are looking at the electric vehicle market—in particular, the electric pickup trucks that are coming,” Ghany said. “More truck models give companies like ours more opportunity to expand into that market. We’re also looking at technology. Everybody wants everything in the car computerized now, so we are looking at new products for that market as well.”
“The rapid escalation in ride sharing and self-driving vehicles illustrates consumers’ desires to simplify their lives as it relates to automobiles,” Kessing concluded. “That leads to the need for easier-to-apply, longer-lasting products.”