In other consumer goods categories, most consumers perceive the quality of private label brands as being equal to name brands, but a recent report from The NPD Group, a leading market research company, finds this isn't always the case with auto aftermarket products consumers. According to NPD auto aftermarket research, sales of private label or store brand auto products have grown, but consumers of automotive aftermarket products still perceive a quality difference between private label and name brands. NPD's Automotive Aftermarket Industry-Monitor (AAIM), which tracks retail and commercial sales at the point-of-sale for over 18,000 auto parts stores in the U.S., reports that for the year ending April 2009 private label (store brands) dollar volume increased by 8.8% from a year ago. "The recession has clearly focused consumers on value," says David Portalatin, industry analyst for NPD's auto unit. "The lower prices often offered by private label brands are a compelling offer for consumers looking for ways to cut back." Value aside, most consumers of automotive products still perceive a quality difference between private label (store brands) and name brands. According to a recently released NPD report entitled, "Selling Automotive Products in Tough Economic Times," 56% of consumers believe that motor oil name brands are of better quality than store brands, while only 38% see no real difference. Only 6% of consumers believe that the private label oil is better. "Many consumers who are passionate about keeping their car in top condition are opting for premium brands and premium formulations of motor oil even in the current economic environment," says Portalatin. "For consumers of this mindset, perceived quality is an important issue." The report findings also indicate that consumers define value differently and don't always equate value with quality. When asked to evaluate store brands and name brands, automotive consumers are more evenly divided. For most products, about one third of consumers say name brands are the best value while a similar percentage claim store brands deliver the best value. "The takeaway is that manufacturers need to understand where consumers of their brand stand on the quality versus value question, and they must clearly differentiate those attributes that will best drive purchase behavior," says Portalatin. "Retailers likewise should evaluate brand assortment to make sure they are meeting the requirements of both quality and value driven consumers." Source: "Automotive Aftermarket Industry-Monitor (AAIM)," conducted by The NPD Group, August 19, 2009. Website: www.npd.com.