One of our first clients in the Automotive Aftermarket was a manufacturer of replacement parts. They had developed their own in-house methodology for generating inventory stocking recommendations for their customers. They didn’t need us to reinvent the wheel. But, they had problems applying their methodology efficiently.
They had built their system in Microsoft Excel and it was a fairly complicated process to generate SKU-level recommendations. It required a lot of copy-paste to get the right data in the right spreadsheet cells. And the manual data input process led to frequent mistakes and frustrations. Because of this, they had 2 full-time analysts who spent almost all their time waist-deep in the spreadsheet trying to keep up with requests for data-driven recommendations.
We suggested that we take their approach and spreadsheet and convert it into a web application. This had several benefits and a rapid ROI:
This simple question is at the core of what VIO data are all about.
Imagine the entrepreneur who has invented an innovative aftermarket replacement part. The part might fit dozens of different models but, for the sake of a simple illustration, let’s say it only fits the Honda Accord. So, finding out the vehicle population is the same as finding out the size of the market for this new part. And this is the denominator in the equation to calculate market share. Pretty important number, explaining why companies are willing to spend money on VIO.
According to data we downloaded and processed from data.ny.gov, the answer to the question is there are approximately 300,000 Honda Accords in New York state.
Hey, why not give the exact number? Because all VIO data are estimates.
Even if we retrieve the data today, this minute, it would be just a static snapshot of registration records. New vehicle sales in the past month won’t show up. Recently purchased vehicles registered in a neighboring state won’t show up. Recently scrapped vehicles will still be counted. Occasionally people drive to another state and need a repair. Heck, some people register their vehicle in another state…for tax reasons or whatever. Sometimes vehicle registrations are clustered in a corporate or government office location even though the vehicles themselves are spread around the state or the country. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, the best count you can get is an estimate. If you’re thinking you’ll gain significant advantage from obtaining higher levels of precision you may be missing the mathematical forest for the trees.
In a recent article the Economist declared that Data has surpassed Oil as the world’s most valuable commodity. Ironically, this value transition is also occurring in the automotive industry where oil still fuels the cars on the road but key data, such as vehicles in operation (VIO), now fuel decisions faced by automotive parts suppliers, distributors and retailers who are increasingly competing on analytics and supply chain efficiency.
For those not familiar, VIO is the name used to describe the census of vehicle ownership registrations which include details such as year, make, model and other attributes. Most large companies in the $300B+ Automotive Aftermarket market license these data in one of two flavors, “Experian” or “Polk”. I don’t know who is winning the market share battle between the two but I do know the Aftermarket is paying a hefty premium due to inadequate competition. Buyers can choose the geographic unit of reporting (national, state, county, ZIP, census tract or perhaps even block group) with prices going up with each increase in geographic resolution. I don’t have details on pricing but, from what I can gather, you’ll pay around $20-30k for County level, maybe $40-50k for ZIP and possibly over $100k for data at census tract or block group level. In exchange for this hefty price tag you get a pile of DVDs or a monster CSV file to download, and not much more.
Originally, R.L. Polk & Company had, essentially, a monopoly on the VIO data licensing business and they used their profit margins intelligently, acquiring Carfax in 1999. Then, around 10 years ago Experian (yes, the same Experian who recently exposed the private data of 123 million American consumers) entered the market. I assume this duopoly improved the competitive landscape a bit for VIO buyers but I think there’s still plenty of room on the field. In 2013, IHS-Markit acquired R.L. Polk & Co for the tidy sum of $1.4 Billion. Having been through a couple of acquisitions myself I suspect some of the Polk brain trust has cashed-in most or all of their Earnout and moved on, either literally or figuratively.
By now you’ve likely heard the news that Amazon wants a big slice of the aftermarket auto parts pie, and that Amazon has already made deals with some large parts manufacturers — Federal-Mogul and Bosch being a couple of these companies. We have had over a week to digest this news; admittedly it was received with some alarm at first. After all, the thought that this online e-commerce behemoth could chew up and spit out our neighborhood parts stores was a bit shocking.
Many of us, if not nearly all of us, have purchased items from Amazon and may order from Amazon on a regular basis.