SIC 3592

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing carburetors, pistons, piston rings, and engine intake and exhaust valves. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing metallic packing are classified in SIC 3053: Gaskets, Packing, and Sealing Devices, and those primarily engaged in manufacturing machine repair and equipment parts (except electric), on a job or order basis for others, are classified in SIC 3599: Industrial and Commercial Machinery and Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

336311 (Carburetor, Piston, Piston Ring, and Valve Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

Carburetors, pistons, intake and exhaust valves, and piston rings account for a relatively small and declining portion of the broader automotive and machine engine parts industries, which together are valued at more than $150 billion. After declining significantly during the early 1990s, the value of shipments began to grow in the late 1990s, increasing from $2.73 billion in 1997 to $3.27 billion in 2000. Employment in the industry also began to grow during this time, rising from 17,241 in 1997 to 18,581 in 2000. Production workers in 2000 numbered 15,203, and they earned, on average, $18.63 an hour, compared to $14.70 in 1996. The total payroll for the industry in 2000 was $784 million.

Organization and Structure

This industry supplies engine parts as original equipment and as aftermarket replacement parts. Dominated by mid-sized and large companies, the industry employed an average of 151 workers per establishment in 1996. In 1997 the industry claimed 142 establishments, predominantly in California, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

The total auto parts industry, according to Standard & Poor's, is very fragmented and consists of thousands of suppliers, ranging from small specialty shops to multinational corporations. According to 1999 reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce, there were about 5,000 American firms and about 500 foreign firms producing parts for the U.S. market, with about 100 large dominant firms. In general, this industry sector is comprised of four lines of business: original equipment, replacement parts, distribution, and rubber fabrication. Original equipment is manufactured and sold to the automobile companies for installation in new vehicles. The replacement sector produces parts and equipment for either replacement or supplementation. Replacement and supplemental parts are sold primarily to retail outlets and fleet owners. In 1997 U.S. shipments from the automotive parts industry accounted for just over 4 percent of total U.S. manufacturing shipments and represented nearly 4 percent of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The industry's product share is divided into three major categories, each with several subcategories. In 1997 the industry produced carburetors, both new and re-built, valued at $1.28 billion; pistons, piston rings, and piston pins valued at $992.6 million; and engine intake and exhaust valves valued at $496.7 million. In each industry sector the largest share of parts was manufactured for use in motor vehicle engines. Miscellaneous non-motor vehicle internal combustion engines and farm machinery made up the second and third largest uses of this industry's products.

The materials consumed by the industry cover most of the materials used in manufacturing: ferrous and non-ferrous stock, ceramics, rubber, and plastic. The industry supplies carburetors, pistons, rings, and valves either as original equipment for manufacturers of new products or as replacement parts for older products. In 1997 the five largest categories of materials consumed by kind by the industry were aluminum and aluminum based alloy castings ($259.7 million); miscellaneous materials, components, parts, and supplies ($231.7 million); steel shapes and forms ($127.3 million); iron and steel castings ($77.3 million); and metal bolts, nuts, screws, washers, rivets, and other screw machine products ($62.2 million).

Current Conditions

In the late 1990s, the industry continued to be affected by foreign competition and changing technology. Especially in the motor vehicle sector, developments in technology meant that some products needed to be replaced less frequently or were on the verge of obsolescence. In the automotive market, for instance, the traditional carburetor has largely been supplanted by fuel injection, which is more precise and fuel-efficient. After-factory rebuilding and replacement of existing carburetors constitutes the extent of this declining market. Motorcycles and heavy trucks typically still use carburetors, as do other types of non-automotive engines, such as those produced by Briggs & Stratton and Tecumseh. Among all industry products, demand for more reliable components has led to longer-lasting parts that require servicing and replacement less often than in the past. The industry's pistons, rings, and valves are still viable components for the automotive market.

Because half of its revenues came from automotive applications, the industry was largely dependent on sales of motor vehicles in general, and automobiles and light trucks in particular. While U.S. automakers posted a modest recovery in the mid-1990s from their early 1990s slump, growth had been tempered by slim margins and had been uneven across different segments. By the late 1990s, however, truck and automobiles sales had reached unprecedented levels. Writing for Automotive Manufacturing & Production, Michael Robinet predicted total sales for the 1999 North American automotive market would "eclipse 18 million units, an all-time record by over 4 percent from the previous best." NAFTA light vehicle production was expected to register 16.7 million units. Strong demand was expected to extend into the first quarter of 2000, with the rest of the year seeing a slight decline. Total production for 2000 was expected to decline about 4 percent. These nonetheless optimistic figures included a strong and continuing demand for light trucks. "By 2001, light truck production will pass the 8 million mark and the annual light-truck share of the total North American [market] will exceed 50 percent by 2002," according to Christopher Benko of Automotive Industries .

America and the World

U.S. suppliers of auto parts are facing increasing competition from foreign suppliers. Between 1995 and 1998, the U.S. automotive trade deficit widened because of imports from NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada and increased competition from the Chinese Economic Area (Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong). Japan showed a decrease in automotive parts exports, largely because of increased Japanese production in the United States and increased outsourcing to American companies. Most gains in exports of American automotive parts came from shipments to American plants in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. Exports to Asia were adversely affected by the Asian economic crisis.

Research and Technology

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, expansion of the U.S. automotive parts industry will only come by responding to demands for improved technology and products—technology that will produce a lighter, fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly vehicle. In response to the Clean Air Act of 1990 and other legislation, composite materials—plastics, carbon fibers, and other substrates—are being developed by the industry. The main goal of the government's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles is an affordable mid-size passenger vehicle able to travel 80 miles on a gallon of gas. Attaining this goal will mean new technologies for the vehicle's power plant, drive train, and chassis. The industry will have to respond with lighter materials and newer fuel delivery and exhaust systems.

Further Reading

Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. AAIA Online: Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. Bethesda, Maryland: Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, 1999. Available from .

Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. 1999 Aftermarket Factbook & Mini-Monitor. Bethesda, Maryland: Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, 1999.

Automotive Service Industry Association. The Shape and Size of the USA Motor Vehicle Aftermarket: A Profile. Elk Grove Village, Illinois: Automotive Service Industry Association, 1998.

Benko, Christopher J., and Marjorie Sorge. "'99 U.S. Market Forecast: It's Rock and Roll." Automotive Industries. January 1999.

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA. 6th ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

Robinet, Michael E. "Big Demand—For Now." Automotive Manufacturing & Production. October 1999.

Standard & Poor's Corp. Autos & Auto Parts. New York: Industry Surveys, 1999.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic. Washington D.C.: GPO, 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

U.S. Dept. of Commerce. International Trade Administration. Welcome to the International Trade Administration. Washington D.C.: International Trade Administration, 1999. Available from .

McGraw-Hill. U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook '99. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

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