Auto Service World
News   February 20, 2020   by Allan Janssen

COMMENTARY: It All Boils Down to Quality

Somewhere between rock solid and rock bottom are aftermarket companies that struggle with consistency.

By Allan Janssen

Some aftermarket part suppliers enjoy a reputation for quality that is unimpeachable. These companies are industry leaders, setting the standard for others to meet. Heralded for offering improvements over OE parts, their dedication to research and development is inspiring.

At the other end of the spectrum are those companies that notoriously don’t care about quality, but exist only to give the industry the cheapest possible alternative.

Between these bookends, you will find a great many companies that have a hit-and-miss relationship with product quality. They struggle with consistency.

Visit the forums, talk to your clients, read the reviews, you’ll find that opinions about them will swing from year to year with the great arc of a pendulum, from good to bad, to good, to bad. I’ve been in the industry long enough to have seen several prominent aftermarket companies experience the wild ride of fluctuating consumer satisfaction. It cannot be a comfortable one!

There are plenty of factors that can cause these pendulum swings. Trade issues, market conditions, currency fluctuations, executive instability, technical challenges… all are the enemy of manufacturing success.

It should come as no surprise that many technicians and shop owners place a great premium on consistent quality. Being able to trust a product makes the purchase price easy for them. It gives them credibility in their customers’ eyes, and it builds loyalty.

There’s an awful lot of goodwill in the industry – enough to get manufacturers through temporary challenges and crises. But one too many disappointments will cause service providers to start making blanket statements about shoddy parts, lacking in fit, form, and function.

A recent opinion piece in CARS magazine captured this sentiment beautifully, stressing the importance of consistent quality to the service provider community. If you have not read it, it’s worth finding on our website. The primary point of this “Open Letter to Manufacturers” is that both sides of the market need each other. Service providers need good parts, and part manufacturers need good customers. The single most important quality that guarantees success in this business is quality. It’s the fundamental building block of credibility, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Jobbers stand between the supply side and the demand side of the auto repair industry. Do you get involved in the question of quality? Do you ask your customers whose parts work and whose don’t? Do you ask them what they’re seeing, what they require, and what they expect in terms of consistent fit, form, function, availability, durability, and affordability?

Most importantly, do you report back to your suppliers?

Your voice carries weight. You are the middlemen. There is power in that. You have a role to play in ensuring that the system works, that both your customers’ needs and your suppliers’ prices are met.

Quality is the benchmark we all need to meet. Everyone’s reputation rests on it – including your own as a parts broker.


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5 Comments » for COMMENTARY: It All Boils Down to Quality
  1. Bob Ward says:

    From my position on the service side, quality is still a big issue with premium brand parts. OEM parts are still outlasting aftermarket parts hand down. Jobbers cater to their markets with their parts offerings. They are constantly playing with numbers and warranties to attract new business. Recently my supplier upped the warranty on economy brake pads and shoes to lifetime. Really? A lifetime warranty on a substandard part? This is to increase sales in that category. How can a reputable repair shop selling premium brake parts compete with an economy minded shop on warranty and price? Another area the jobbers play with is retail pricing. Too many times lately I am finding aftermarket retail prices much more than OEM pricing. The costs are very close but suggested retail is not. Another area of concern is the loss of independent jobbers who sell under a banner name. Corporate is buying up all these small jobbers in order to gain market share and control. Once these stores become corporate their business operates differently. In my opinion corporate employees do not treat their customers the same as independent owners and their employees. The business is changing so keep a close watch on it.

  2. Nelson says:

    Not only does it boil down to quality, it is also boiling down to the jobbers selling the aftermarket parts to the public (that are coming to our shops for repair), at the same cost price that our shop would pay! In other words, our shop looks like we would be overcharging the customer no matter the profit margin… I may be dealing with the wrong suppliers but after a few phone calls to confirm pricing for my own peace of mind, I found pricing to be almost equal across the board.
    This is not a good position for any business to be in!
    The same supplier that wants our business, selling to our customers, at our cost price!

    • Bob Ward says:

      I agree. The jobbers need to decide what sector of the auto business they want to be in. Wholesale selling to repair shops with business licenses or to the general public. I have made it VERY CLEAR to my supplier about my account. He knows I will move my business ( along with other shops) to a jobber who only sells wholesale. Some of the jobbers that sell to the public have much higher return rates as a result. My current jobber has a policy not to sell certain parts to the public. I can respect that decision. He is focusing on his core business which is growing.

  3. D says:

    I see some dissatisfaction with some of the business owners. However a problem from the car owner side is the shops buying parts made in China to maximize profit. What they appear to be dis-concerned with is the labor used. We need to look at quality parts not cheapest.

    • Nelson says:

      I do agree with you on that point, however, when the customer is looking for the cheapest price, (and thats my personal experience) quality is never discussed…
      -The point I’m making is that the customer shops for the cheapest price, purchases the same part I do (regardless the quality), at the same cost I would pay!
      -Then the customer brings the part to our shop to install & pay only the labour!
      -To purchase cheaper parts online is one thing (I can explain the difference to the customer) but to lose a profit margin, not to mention reputation, because the local jobber is undercutting our shop, there is no point to having a “List price” & “Cost price”
      -I hope you understand this point?
      -Quality has nothing to do with this situation!

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