Auto Service World
Feature   March 10, 2016   by Tom Venetis

Brake Friction: A Growing Profit Centre For Jobbers


Brake friction will continue to show strong growth worldwide, providing Canadian jobbers a steady profit stream for the coming years.
Frost & Sullivan reported that North American brake pad and shoe sales will continue showing strong growth in the coming years. This trend is confirmed by a recent study put out by Research and Markets, Automotive Brake Friction Product Market by OE & Aftermarket (Brake Pads, Shoes, Lining, Rotor, and Drum) & Material Type (Pads – Non Metallic, Semi-Metallic, & Ceramic, Lining-Organic, Semi-Metallic & Synthetic) – Industry Trends & Forecast to 2019. This study finds that the automotive brake friction market will grow, in terms of volume, at 6.04% CAGR from 2014 to 2019, reaching some 3.61 billion units sold.
This is also echoed by aftermarket brake friction manufacturers, who report continuing strong sales, especially in the categories of “Better” and “Premium.”
“Overall, we are experiencing a higher sales trend in our friction products,” says Brian Kowalski, vice-president, branded sales, Canada with Brake Parts Inc., makers of the Raybestos line of brake friction. “Our customers continue to ask for high-quality, competitively priced products and recognize that not all brake pads are created equal or perform equally.”
The reason for the increasing sales in higher-quality brake friction is two-fold. One is that more new vehicles today are coming off the line equipped with higher-quality or premium brake friction. This trend is not restricted to just luxury vehicles; premium brakes are showing up in mid-range vehicle models. Secondly, vehicle owners have come to understand the value and advantage of a premium aftermarket brake friction product. This is especially true of owners of older vehicles, who are looking to preserve the value of that vehicle, and to hold onto it longer. It is now estimated that the average age of vehicles on the road today in Canada is over 10 years.
“This trend in quality has a lot of reasons behind it,” continues Tom Connelly, national marketing and sales manager with Monroe Brakes. “Number one is that the brake vendors are making [higher-quality friction] available to the market. That makes it easier for jobbers to increase their profits because there is product there for them to make available to their customers.”
The other reason is that more consumers want replacement friction to match the OE specifications of the friction that originally came with the vehicle, or to move up to a premium friction product.
“Customers are aware that ‘You get what you pay for,’” says Kowalski. “High-quality disc brake pads typically offer an improved cost-per-mile value, whether it is in durability, performance, or safety, or a combination of each. Customers also appreciate products that are innovative and offer enhanced attributes such as better pedal feel, quiet operation, durability, and improved stopping distance.”
“Why does someone buy a brake repair or a new set of brake pads?” asks Connelly. “It’s because they are having a problem with the brakes on their vehicle. They are not performing properly, they need replacement, and the vehicle owner wants the vehicle to perform as well as it did when it was purchased. So the customer is looking to have the best product available installed. They may have tried lower-priced products in the past, and found that those products caused brake pedal pulsation and stopping performance was not the best.”

Price is Not a Factor Anymore
When it comes to the jobber selling a premium brake friction product, the first thing to remember is that price is not the deciding factor anymore. While there is a percentage of vehicle owners who will make a decision on brake friction based on price alone, that percentage is growing smaller. The reason is that the price difference between a premium product and lower-cost product is rapidly closing, making the up-sell opportunity for the jobber easier than in years past.
“Premium friction over the years has come down in price, and we are able [now] to provide the consumer with a high-end, premium product at a mid-grade price,” says Dean Weber, vice-president with Proforce Automotive. “It is bridging the gap between economy and premium pricing while still meeting the demand for a premium superior product in terms of performance and reliability. I believe there will always be a demand for economy friction, as there are customers that have less disposable income, or don’t plan on keeping the car for very long.”
“The jobber and the technician are in key advisory positions to help the consumer make an informed decision,” says Doug Curliss, sales manager with Promax Auto Parts Depot. “They must work together to educate the customer.”
“Jobbers need to be talking regularly to [technicians and service writers] to let them know that they have the best available product for them, and that it is priced right and it has the quality needed to satisfy their customer,” adds Connelly from Tenneco. “For the skeptical technician, give them a set of pads to try. Have them test it on their own vehicle or place it on a customer’s vehicle, and then they will see the quality of the product. Once they see customers are satisfied, that will help with future sales.”
Curliss adds that one way for jobbers to increase sales of friction products, and thereby profits, is for jobbers to encourage service writers and technicians to service the entire brake system, rather than focusing on replacing pads only. This involves inspecting, servicing, or replacing any hardware that is worn.
Proforce’s Weber says there are real advantages to this. For the jobber, it means additional revenues from the sales of calipers and shim and lubricants, for example; for the technician, it reduces comebacks. “This is an important point,” Weber continues. “Some of the consumer complaints in the past could be attributed to improper or incomplete installation of the brake job.”
“Whenever possible, a complete brake job is always preferable,” adds Brakes Parts Inc.’s Kowalski. “There is an old saying that you never have time to do the job right the first time, but you find time to do the job again. Talk to the customer to identify the problem, perform a complete brake inspection and do a complete brake job; [this] is essential to reduce comebacks and increase overall customer satisfaction. The complete brake job can include service and/or replacement of parts, including brake pads, brake shoes, disc rotors, brake drums, calipers, brake hoses, parking brake cables, and disc/drum hardware.”
Being pressed for time, technicians often don’t do a complete brake job if it means having to do separate orders for different components in addition to the pads. Recognizing this, brake makers have included many of the needed components in the box of premium brake pads, so selling a complete brake job to vehicle owners is now easier. Along with all the components, there are included inspection tip sheets reminding technicians to look for worn components.
“One of the things in the past that used to cause even a good brake pad to have poor performance was that technicians were not changing worn hardware, and did not lubricate the sliders properly or do other detail work needed for a complete brake service. We now put all the materials needed into the box to improve the whole process, and now you see this with most brake vendors, especially with their premium lines,” says Kowalski.
With strong brake sales forecast for the foreseeable future, jobbers who take the time to educate their customers on the value of choosing premium brake parts will ensure they get their share of this growing market. nJN


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