February brought some new launches from both eBay and Amazon in the auto parts and accessories category (P&A). Both feature enhancements are good news for consumers, but only one really benefits small business sellers.
Amazon has been offering auto parts on its marketplace since 2006 when the company launched its original Automotive Parts and Accessories Store with over 1 million items.
One of the unique features of its store back then was that it included a parts finder tool that enabled shoppers to find the right part on about 10,000 different car and truck models.
This was a big deal in the shopping experience, as parts finder tools were mostly found on specialty automotive websites, not general ecommerce sites.
Still, the car and parts databases back then lacked a lot of trim level and options details.
Today’s standardized automotive database, maintained by the Auto Care Industry association used by almost all major ecommerce platforms, has over 60,000 different car and truck models.
This enables shoppers to accurately select the exact car, engine, trim, and most popular OEM options to exactly find the right parts for their car or truck.
Amazon’s Automotive Parts and Accessories store has evolved over the years, adding features and improving fitment information, most of it driven by enhancements in detail now available in today’s standardized databases. The company also rebranded the store to Amazon Garage.
Most parts listed on Amazon are performance, styling, or replacement parts, generally from non-OEM brands.
If you were looking for a vehicle part to make your ride look better or go faster, you can probably find it on Amazon. Some of the largest names in the automotive aftermarket parts industry realized this potential over the past decade and chose to sell directly to Amazon.
The size of Amazon’s online business also brought many smaller sellers to the platform, initially trying to sell branded aftermarket parts. Today, smaller sellers probably find better success selling unbranded parts that do not compete with Amazon.
Now, Amazon stepped up its game a little further in branded parts by expanding its vehicle parts store to feature OEM replacement parts as well.
The newly launched Amazon OEM Auto Parts Shop offers more than 30,000 items from original equipment manufacturers, which include AcDelco, Acura, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, BMW, BRP, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, JLR, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mopar, Nissan, Polaris, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo, VW, and Yamaha.
“Since 2020, we’ve seen an average 20% increase annually in the number of vehicles U.S. customers have saved in the Amazon Garage, showing a clear customer interest in shopping for parts and accessories for their vehicles similar to the way they shop for other consumer products,” said Ernie Linsay, Amazon’s director of automotive announcing the new store.
While Amazon’s platform is good for all-sized sellers, competing with branded aftermarket parts is more difficult, as Amazon will always favor its own inventory in the Buy Box.
Also, in February, eBay expanded its P&A offering, adding a fitment guarantee (Guaranteed Fit), giving shoppers the confidence they will receive the right part for their vehicle, or they can return it for free.
“People are buying and selling parts online like never before, and eBay Guaranteed Fit helps take the guesswork out of the shopping experience,” said Chris Prill, VP of eBay Motors.
“Accurate fitment is critical to completing a project, from simple repairs to major modifications. With today’s launch, eBay Motors is empowering shoppers to browse and buy the millions of parts and accessories on the marketplace with that crucial added assurance.”
On eBay, enthusiasts have been able to find automotive aftermarket parts since the late 1990s. At first, sellers used auction-style listings, and later expanded to Buy-It-Now (or fixed price) listings when eBay added that feature in 2000.
Because there was no parts finder, sellers would frequently list titles to identify fitment, often creating hundreds of listings for the same SKU. Back then, eBay did not prohibit sellers to list the same SKU multiple times, which today is prohibited.
But this listing trick created problematic search results, as it would often surface parts that actually didn’t fit a car due to limitations in the search algorithm. Shoppers would also become overwhelmed by the search results.
When eBay introduced its parts finder in 2010, the marketplace became a lot easier to use. But eBay’s platform to enter the fitment data was clunky, leaving sellers frustrated, and often just avoiding it altogether.
Third-party tools offered solutions to make the process easier, but they were either still very labor-intensive or costly to implement, often, out of the reach of smaller sellers.
eBay tried to offer another solution using curated parts data. Just like Amazon’s ASIN product identifier, this allowed sellers to automatically add fitment data to parts listings using a unique part identifier.
But this catalog had countless problems and included so many errors that many sellers just stayed away. Not all of this was eBay’s fault, as the industry itself struggled to provide data in a standardized format.
Today’s Automotive Parts Market
This new rush by eBay and Amazon to update their car parts businesses is driven by numerous factors.
People are keeping their cars longer as the build quality has significantly improved. In addition, over the past three years, car prices rose dramatically as new cars were scarce due to supply chain challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
To offer some insight.
In the U.S., the average age of a car in 2022 is estimated to be 12.2 years by Hedges & Company (H&C), a digital marketing and research company for the automotive aftermarket business. Furthermore, H&C estimated 64% of vehicles on the road are model year 2014 or older.
With nearly 2/3 of all cars on the road today estimated to be at least 8 years old, it presents a giant opportunity for the vehicle aftermarket parts business to continue to grow.
While neither eBay nor Amazon breakout sales data for their P&A categories, H&C estimated that in 2021, Amazon’s revenue was about $12 billion while eBay’s revenue reached $11.7 billion in the same year.
The total size of the ecommerce market fin auto parts — not including omnichannel retailers that run online stores as well — was estimated to be around $35 billion in 2021. That means the two largest marketplaces in the U.S. account for 2/3 of all P&A revenue online.
By 2030, H&C projects that P&A online sales in the United States will reach $67 billion, more than double from 2020 when H&C estimated sales reached $31 billion.
How does this compare to the entire parts business?
The light-duty auto parts industry (that includes P&A) hit an estimated $341 billion in 2022. That number includes both parts sales and service.
Combined, eBay and Amazon account for roughly 7 percent of the entire light-duty auto parts industry.
Now, one more stat from H&C, marketplace P&A sellers (that includes Amazon, eBay, Walmart Marketplace, etc), sold an estimated $18.3 billion in 2022, projected to reach $32.1 billion by 2030.
Where Should Marketplace Sellers List Products?
Amazon’s latest expansion benefits dealerships and OEM parts sellers to build an online presence in their marketplace. Some shoppers may feel more comfortable purchasing OEM parts versus aftermarket parts from brands they may not be as familiar with.
This is the segment of the light-duty auto parts industry Amazon is trying to lure, and it could be huge if the inventory grows beyond what it is today.
Frankly, presently it looks more like a branding exercise, as many of the parts offered in the Amazon OEM Auto Parts Shop probably were already on the platform before.
While 30,000 parts sound impressive, consider this, according to Napa Auto Parts, one of the nation’s largest auto parts retailers, every car has about 30,000 parts.
That is counting every little nut and bolt as well as big items such as the engine block. Not all of these parts are unique, of course, but still, it shows how deep the OEM parts catalog could be for just one car.
So, with Amazon starting out at around 30,000 parts in its OEM Auto Parts Shop, it has a long way to go before it really could become an alternative source for finding the most common OEM parts in a modern car.
eBay’s feature enhancement adding guaranteed fitment is a far bigger deal for third-party sellers. It provides confidence to buyers that the parts they are buying fits their vehicle.
If H&C estimated sales data for Amazon and eBay are correct, then both platforms are very close in annual sales of P&A. And since Amazon already offered a guaranteed fitment program before eBay launched theirs in February, this can only boost eBay’s sales and potential reach of auto parts buyers.
However, the most important differentiator for third-party sellers on eBay is that they are not competing with the ecommerce platform itself selling auto parts. This offers a far greater level playing field with auto parts, especially when selling brand-name aftermarket parts.
As much as Amazon dominates ecommerce, when it comes to auto parts, it seems eBay is holding its own The company’s refocus on the P&A category is good for independent sellers and that should give eBay the edge for smaller sellers to succeed selling auto parts online.
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