Compiled By Jill Jusko Technological advances in automotive seals, gaskets, belts, and hoses by OEMs are delaying the need for replacement parts - good news for consumers but not necessarily so good for the aftermarket business. Traditional repair cycles of three to five years are extending to six to eight years due to the manufacture of longer-lasting parts. As a result, market participants may need to rethink business strategies to capitalize on market opportunities, says Frost & Sullivan, a San Jose-based provider of market research and consulting. According to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan - "North American Belts, Hoses, Gaskets, and Seals Aftermarket" - the total market earned $1.09 billion in 2000 and is projected to reach $1.2 billion by 2007. The firm suggests that differentiating products by technology, establishing a brand name, and creating the perception of better performance will be key to charging premium prices. For smaller manufacturers, the key to survival in the aftermarket will be to partner up with larger competitors. In the gasket and seal segment, for example, the move toward multilayered steel (MLS) and molded rubber will stretch the resources of smaller firms, Frost & Sullivan says, because tooling costs for these products are high. Manufacturers that already supply automakers can spread out tooling costs, thereby offering more competitively priced products to the aftermarket. Smaller manufacturers should partner with original equipment suppliers to repackage MLS under their own brand name, the market researchers suggest.