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Driving Success in Auto Parts: How Third Party Logistics Helps Keep Customers on the Road

The age of the average American automobile is rising, to an all time high of 12.5 years, as reported by S&P Global Mobility. It’s a scenario caused in part by global supply chain issues that emerged during the pandemic, limiting the availability of new vehicles and pushing up the costs of acquiring both new and used vehicles.

The new car pipeline may be running a little more smoothly now, but economic uncertainty means many drivers are wary of taking on major purchases, and a new car remains one of the biggest expenses an average family faces.

This aging auto fleet creates both growth opportunities and logistical demands for the vehicle parts and service industry. Consumers are spending more to keep cars and trucks on the road longer, a trend that’s been consistent for a number of years. For many, this means a trip to their dealer, or an independent repair shop. Others, driven by the easy availability of DIY how-to videos on YouTube and knowledge shared on online forums, may take on maintenance and repairs themselves. 

One report suggests that almost half of consumers (46%) have performed some form of auto maintenance, repair or customization, while a European study claims that more millennials and Gen Z drivers are more willing to try simple repairs themselves than boomers who may be happier to pay for the convenience of a professional repair. 

The DIY maintenance market isn’t just finding tutorials online. Unsurprisingly, the market for online auto parts and accessories sales has grown significantly, up 13% from 2017 to 2023. Meanwhile, there remains a large and thriving auto repair industry dominated by independent repair shops (with 74% market share of aftermarket diagnostics and services as of 2019). In total, the U.S. light duty auto parts aftermarket market size was projected to hit $341 billion in 2022.

In this highly-fragmented but potentially-lucrative market, time is of the essence, and auto part logistics are mission critical. The same drivers who keep aging vehicles on the road longer may well be the ones who can least afford to manage without their wheels. If your car is stuck in the repair shop or driveway for lack of a specific autopart, it’s that much harder to get to work, or take the kids to school. 

For auto part retailers, having the right parts in stock, or the ability to order them quickly, matters. Time-crunched customers can simply take their business elsewhere, and with several big name auto parts chains competing for business, it’s not difficult to shop around. 

Auto part stores and repair shops are among the types of businesses often found clustered together. This can be an advantage when it comes to attracting the most customers, particularly when competing against online retailers. But clustered proximity of aftermarket parts sellers forces businesses that rub shoulders with each other to compete on customer service, price comparison, and range of merchandise in stock.

All of this points to the importance of an efficient auto parts supply chain. Retail stores and dealerships no longer have a monopoly on auto parts availability. And if customers can’t find the parts they need to get back on the road, they can easily leave a negative review on Yelp at the same time as they’re finding it on a competitor’s shelf or ordering a hard-to-find part online.

The advantages of working with a 3PL vendor in the aftermarket auto parts industry are manifold. With a strong understanding of logistics and inventory management, a 3PL can streamline operations and drastically improve efficiency. This makes it easier to ensure that the right parts are available when needed, allowing for faster turnaround times for both auto shops and DIY enthusiasts. 

Additionally, 3PLs can help businesses effectively handle reverse logistics – an essential aspect considering the growing emphasis on repurposing and the secondary market.

While an auto parts retailer or repair shop may rely on their own logistics capabilities, a 3PL vendor can bring a level of expertise to the table that’s hard to replicate in house. A good, independent 3PL vendor should have the flexibility to offer more customized same-day and next-day solutions than the major carriers offer. 

These can range from consistent “milk run” routing that offers regularly-scheduled delivery to a number of destinations, to courier services that expedite specific parts for in-store or repair shop customers. With a specific focus on logistics, a 3PL can also offer a level of customer service that fosters peace of mind, and allows auto parts delivery clients to focus on keeping their customers happy.

With an increasingly aging auto fleet and the rise of DIY auto repair and maintenance, the aftermarket auto parts industry presents numerous opportunities for growth. As the market continues to evolve and customer expectations rise, businesses must adapt accordingly. Working with a 3PL vendor for aftermarket auto parts logistics can significantly enhance efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and drive business growth. Don’t let your customers wait – improve your aftermarket auto parts logistics today. Want to learn more? Contact Expak.

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