Every time I look into the brake market, I am forced to draw the conclusion that it is not only one of the most dynamic segments of the aftermarket, it is also one of the toughest to compete in. And one of the most confusing.
There is so much misinformation, and disinformation, floating around in the aftermarket brake business that myth and supposition are practically central themes. Take the edge code situation, for example. I am continually shocked to learn that the myth still persists about how these neatly stamped numbers along the side of a piece of friction material can indicate product performance. While any counterperson worth his salt knows that they are about as useful an indicator of product quality as the batch number on a can of soup, there are just enough ill-informed folks in the aftermarket to keep the edge-code myth smoldering.
Of course, it’s not solely counterpeople and technicians who are to blame. Despite the constant talk about the need to put premium, properly tested, clean brake friction, OE-quality rotors and the accompanying calipers, hardware, etc. on a pedestal, there is a noticeable lack of willingness in the industry to take sides, to commit to quality in their product offering, and portray in clear terms what the good stuff is.
The clearest and most disturbing example I have seen in recent times was a flyer handed to me as I entered a trade show presented by a major WD. The flyer profiled the organization’s extensive brake friction offerings, six or seven if I do recall.
While you may take exception with the need to offer so many levels of product, I do not. What I took exception to was the fact that each and every product, from the premium severe-duty line to the price fighter promised excellent performance, meeting and exceeding original equipment specifications with high-quality designs, friction formulations, etc. There were minor wording changes from product to product, but it was unclear which products offered truly excellent performance and which ones would just fit and work. It was all very confusing. I can only imagine how a technician or garage owner would perceive the message. With the benefit of high-quality products completely obscured by the unwillingness to accurately define the varying quality and performance levels of these brake products, it’s no wonder many garage owners, and some consumers, play “The Price is Right” with their brake purchasing.
To talk to your customers about brake friction by starting at the top-quality products and then, if necessary, working your way down through the quality levels, you have to know what you’re talking about.
I think it’s high time we stopped coddling the low-priced, short-lived, high-dusting brake products. Call them what they are–cheap and dirty. They may do the job, but for how long? If the customer asks you why you’re selling products like that, maybe you should ask yourself the same question.
I firmly believe that all brake products should be evaluated for their performance through independent testing, against the original equipment performance specification, and correlated to government vehicle safety standards. This already exists. The D3EA testing has been with us for a while now, but has been embraced by very few in the industry. The Brake Manufacturers Council has recently announced its support of the Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedure (BEEP), and the hope is that this will be more widely accepted and implemented.
There is also now an SAE procedure for checking brake noise, SAE J2521, so there is plenty of testing that can be done.
In all cases, I’d like to think that the original equipment performance would be a benchmark to exceed, not the ceiling.
Ultimately though, it’s not a question of testing; all the testing and all the standards in the world will not help you if you don’t understand what they mean, and if the industry doesn’t clearly communicate what the brake purchaser can gain by buying high-quality products, and what they give up when they don’t.
ASE Parts Specialist Test Preparation will be joined by Fall Selling Opportunities and Heavy-Duty Safety. We’ll also have a rundown of industry happenings. You can also stay up to date at www.autoservicworld.com.