CLEVELAND--The aftermarket for light vehicle components and parts in North America is forecast to increase 4.3 percent annually for the next 4 years.

According to a report by The Freedonia Group, North American sales of auto parts will exceed $55.8 billion in 2004. Sales increases will be restrained by the improving durability of original equipment parts in new light vehicles and by fierce competition that will result in flat or lower prices in most product segments. These factors will be offset by the rising age of light vehicles, as well as the number of vehicles that were sold during the strong light vehicle market between 1994 and 1999. A significant increase in the number of vehicles in Mexico will also boost demand for aftermarket parts.

Mechanical parts will continue to be the largest product segment. However, the best growth prospects will be for electronic parts. The price of all aftermarket parts will be affected by intense competition, including increased competition from Internet-based parts dealers.