Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2009   by David Halpert

High Quality Low Returns

Brake Parts Strategies That Work

It’s likely more than a few of your customers have considered ordering lesser quality parts for their brake jobs in the face of shrinking profits. What this means for the aftermarket at large must be viewed in terms of customer needs as well as the current state of braking technology.

Braking technology has improved immensely over the last decade. In recent years, ceramic friction formulation brake pads have been touted as the latest and greatest technology. Many suppliers claim they are quieter than other formulations, create less dust, and have better stopping power, but within the ceramic category (as well as other formulations), there are options up and down the quality and price scale.

The reality is though, regardless of the level of product being selected by your customer, when he has to deal with a comeback for whatever reason, often the blame falls on the shoulders of the jobber.

“It’s very difficult for me as an owner to tell my customers that I didn’t make the product,” says Eduardo Gabarro, owner of West End Auto Supply, a jobber store in Toronto, Ont. “I’m the one who buys it, so I take the responsibility by supplying the product. In today’s market everyone wants it as cheap as possible. And when you get the lesser-priced product you have problems.”

On the whole, suppliers and technicians are usually satisfied with the quality of parts delivered by manufacturers, and in overall terms comebacks are a rare occurrence (less than 1% of a manufacturer’s output).

However, while a brake job is only as good as the technician doing the repair, to what extent does the responsibility fall on the jobber when a comeback does occur, and ultimately, how can that number be reduced?

The reality is brake jobs represent a significant portion of the aftermarket. In a survey conducted of 2,500 light vehicle owners, nearly a third (31.8%) of respondents had their brakes repaired in the year 2006, according to an AIA Outlook Study conducted by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. Of those maintenance repairs, 73% of the work was performed at a professional service outlet. It’s also interesting to note that independent repair shops dominated the DIFM market for brake service with 51.1%, while new car dealers accounted for most of the remaining share (31.9%).

“The product experience delivered to the consumer correlates to the quality of the product that they purchase,” says Ian Braunstein of Satisfied Brake Products Inc. “There’s a direct cross-reference between cost and quality; the lesser the quality, the more likely a comeback is going to occur. The low-cost brake pad is a short-term solution to what will eventually cost you money.”

So there is much to consider in the face of economic pressures, an expanding world of low-cost brake friction, and the upward trend in downward pricing. While many can expect to see an increase in the number of economy brake pads being offered in jobber stores, the real question you should

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