M&A research in the world of COVID-19
There are many factors and influences within the automotive aftermarket, including some that were unimagined until recently. Given the dynamic and unpredictable events of 2020, how can we determine the future of the automotive aftermarket?
For the purposes of market analysis, we use historic data from similar times in the past, blended with the unique changes in our current environment to get a perspective for the future of our industry. We have seen and recovered from slow-downs in the past and will do so again this time.
The light duty automotive aftermarket is a very stable market with long-term positive trends. Simply put, parts and services are sold when vehicles are used. After the Great Recession vehicle miles increased at about 1.3% per year (CAGR) from 2011-2019 and sales closely matched the mileage trend.
What was the Covid-19 impact? From early March 2020 to mid-April, miles driven dropped 57%. By May 1st mileage had started to increase but was still down 44%. (1)
The predominant mode of travel in the United States is by automobile and light truck, accounting for about 69% of passenger miles traveled in 2018. Driving to and from work represents 30% of light vehicle miles driven. Other top uses include work related travel, visiting friends and relatives and driving to school, daycare and church. (2)(3) Vehicle use obviously drives maintenance, parts consumption, and even collision and repair. As people have begun, although slowly to resume their normal activities, miles driven will continue to increase and the aftermarket will rebound.
The market is indeed dynamic. When large numbers of people stayed at home and did not drive, the miles driven dropped significantly. While more people have returned to their workplaces, the lingering work-from-home impact will likely affect the aftermarket to some degree. The variables that determine the durability of the work-from-home trend are complex and largely unknown at this point. At the time of writing, the impact of widespread home offices on productivity, morale, and profitability are not known.
The long-term work-from-home trend is also a study in human behavior. Densely populated cities, with often fewer miles driven per capita are seeing an exodus to the suburbs and less dense, and less expensive areas were cars are a necessity and mobility and pandemic restrictions are reduced. With no relevant data in our history, the viability of work-from-home and its widespread impact remains speculative.
There are always opportunities. Some companies are more aggressive in finding or making the opportunities necessary for profitable sales. Other companies may just be in the right place at the right time with their offering. In some cases, consolidation can be a savvy option to achieve profitability in a challenging market by reducing operating expenses, inventory, equipment, and facilities.
Like most business activity, M&A slowed in Q2 as investors evaluated their current holdings and developed short and long-term plans to move forward. Now, some investors are beginning to look for troubled businesses. Others are cautiously resuming searches for appropriate bolt-ons to current investments as well as strong platforms based on solid historic performance and future market potential.
M&A in the automotive aftermarket is moving forward. Activity and interest from investors and companies looking for opportunities that match their criteria is increasing. Investors believe in the long-term stability of our market and its long-term growth potential, backed by historic data and performance. Selecting the right opportunities is a key to success.
HMA’s extensive automotive market experience allows us to find the right opportunities for our clients, both buyers and sellers. We do extensive and transparent research rooted in our wide network of contacts and resources developed over decades in the industry. HMA delivers a significant level of detail in acquisition searches that are tailored to each client’s needs.
Vice President, Research
Hart Marx Advisors
(1) Source: Auto Care Association Factbook 2021, Jefferies Group, Arity, Municipal Open Data Portals, TomTom, GTCOM, AutoNavi
(2) U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (2019) Highway Statistics 2018 (details)
(3) Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan 2019. Personal Transportation Factsheet Pub. No. CSS01-07