The number of car parts dealerships in the U.S. has dropped from about 500 in 2004 to around 400 in 2012, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
It’s not because car buyers have stopped buying car parts or the industry is in decline.
Instead, car buyers are shopping for a number of reasons: They want to get rid of the car they already own; they’re trying to save money; they want to build a car that fits in their garage; they need to save on fuel and maintenance costs; and, for the first time, they want a car with fewer parts and more options.
But car dealerships still hold the power to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.
“You’re seeing a shift toward car buying being about how many options you have, rather than about how much you pay,” says Michael Gelles, president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
But it’s unclear how much that shift will affect the quality of the parts that people buy.
In the meantime, car parts stores have continued to sell the same cars, which is why the demand for the same car parts is still so high.
While car parts retailers may not be making a huge dent in the overall car buying pie, they still have an outsized role in shaping the purchasing process.
“What you see here is a kind of consolidation, and that’s why car dealers have a role to play in the consolidation process,” Gellas says.
“It allows them to get into a market that’s already dominated by one or two car parts manufacturers, and they can buy the best parts they can find.”
The car buying cycle In the U