Auto Service World
News   January 22, 2020   by Auto Service World

COMMENTARY: An open letter to manufacturers

By Bob Paff


Dear Mr. Manufacturer:

Who is your biggest customer?

If you’re thinking it’s the local jobber or John Q. Public, please allow me to humbly suggest that you give your head a shake.

It is repair shop owners and auto technicians who decide what brands they trust and will ultimately purchase. They are the key buyers of your products, and they purchase a lot of them! Nearly 80% of all replacement parts are sold to independent repair shops.

It is repair technicians, not jobbers, who can give you feedback on your new products. It is repair shops that can best promote your brands. It is the repair and service industry that can reach all corners of this country, even the smallest and most remote markets.

And, just as they can help you, you can help them. They really need your support. Yes, we all know it is impractical for you to have hundreds of field reps to satisfy every market or region. But that’s not what they’re asking for.

They need training to keep them abreast of the latest developments in the industry, technical guidance to help when they get stuck, warranty support when things go wrong, and ongoing customer service to make their jobs easier.

Remember the term “brand loyalty?” Offering these things is how you earn it. When you drop the ball on these responsibilities, your customers get the impression that you really don’t care about their business or their well-being.

Maybe this is what explains the proliferation of cheap offshore parts. You opened the door for that to happen when you cut back on customer service. When you stopped offering product training and support, we lost the ability to tell cheap parts from quality parts. The only differentiator we were left with was price, and that’s not good for anyone.

Here’s a scenario that happens all the time: a vehicle owner comes into a repair shop and says, “My car needs struts. What brand should I buy and why?” There’s a good chance the service advisor can’t answer that question. Without knowing the features of each brand, the shop cannot even start to match a product to the customer’s needs. Availability and price are the only options left.

Or let’s say a particular brand of part repeatedly fails and is repeatedly sent back to the jobber. If you want to keep that customer, an explanation had better be forthcoming. It is not enough to simply replace the part and compensate for labour. We need some follow-up, some kind of accounting, or our trust level will just plummet. We won’t want to install that brand anymore. In fact, all of your brands will become suspect in our eyes.

Repair shops are the finish line for most of your parts… and yet you seem to be out of touch with us.

Want to regain our trust, confidence and patronage? Make a commitment to not just to supplying quality parts, but to helping us do our jobs better, quicker, and more profitably.

Let’s find a way to bring manufacturers and their customers together again. We need you and you need us. Let’s work together!



Bob Paff is the founder of the Automotive Service Business Network ( You can reach him at



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2 Comments » for COMMENTARY: An open letter to manufacturers
  1. Bob is quite correct about what repair shops want. After 50 years in this auto repair field let me add my 2 cents worth.
    We want real training and not a parts selling meeting that tells us all problems are solved if we just buy XYZ parts. Reimbursement for labour on warranty parts and not the old tried and true “you installed it wrong” excuse. IF I INSTALLED IT WRONG YOU TELL ME WHAT I DID WRONG SO I DON’T DO IT AGAIN. Use your parts; sure if you support them and support me. Discount cards given to everyone so they can buy parts at my cost means I will not use you for parts.

  2. Bob Ward says:

    Bob also needs to deal with larger issues, starting with quality. As William, I have been in this market for 42 years. I have seen a steady decline in the quality of “premium” parts. So much so I find I am taking smaller margins and purchasing OEM parts with a ZERO premature failure rate. It is compounded by the fact that jobbers and manufacturers are putting lifetime warranties on non premium parts. I do not see any logic in that at all. Safety related auto parts should only be sold to licensed shops not the public. This is undermining our faith in manufacturers and jobbers who choose to supply the DIY market. These points need to be included as well.

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