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Modified driving patterns likely will impact automotive product sales

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A recent study by the NPD Group Inc. indicates that automotive maintenance and repair activities may be less robust in 2007 if miles driven do not rebound.

The increases in miles driven in 2006 are the smallest in more than 25 years, and automotive products and services companies are hoping that falling gas prices will lead to increased driving. And since consumers base their automotive maintenance intervals on mileage, fewer consumers expect to perform automotive maintenance and repair this year versus last year.

According to the NPD's 2007 Outlook Survey, 80% of Americans base their automotive maintenance intervals on mileage, with the average oil change interval occurring at 3,840 miles. Driving fewer miles could mean there would be fewer maintenance intervals each year.

NPD also reports that only nine percent of consumers expect to perform more maintenance and repair this year versus last year, while 10% believe they will perform less maintenance and repair.

In order to weather the storm, manufacturers, retailers and service providers must educate consumers about the need for regular maintenance. While consumers do not appear to be enthusiastic about repair and maintenance in the next year, twelve percent of consumers report that they will spend more this year on vehicle appearance; only five percent will spend less.

"Spending on vehicle appearance could be a real bright spot in the market in 2007," says David Portalatin, director of industry analysis for NPD. "Companies might consider offering product bundles and/or service packages that cross-promote appearance and maintenance items to make the most of the appearance-oriented consumer purchase occasion."

Another option could be that to ensure when consumers visit a retailer or service outlet for repairs, they also are cross-sold maintenance products and services to capture more unperformed maintenance," he adds.

Portalatin will be presenting results from NPD's 2007 Outlook Survey at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 8 a.m. at the Sunrise Seminar. He also will be available at NPD's booth at AAPEX to discuss study findings and industry trends.

For more information on the NPD Group, visit www.npd.com.

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