Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2015   by Steve Pawlett

Premium Brake Products On the Rise

With the price point between second- and first-line brake pads and rotors as close as a street race between a Camaro and Mustang, it’s much easier for jobbers to upsell clients to a premium product for a reasonable price. And when you add to that equation the fact that many customers are hanging onto their vehicles longer, so are much more receptive to investing a little more for aftermarket parts that will give them good performance, increased safety, and a longer life, you have a formula for increased sales revenue. Another factor influencing upscale brake part buying patterns is the recent popularity of coated rotors.
“Initially coated rotors were a little slow to take hold, but because the pricing difference between the cheaper uncoated ones and the coated rotors is now only $15-$20 per rotor, they are all opting for it, because you know what? They go on a lot easier, they look good on all those open rim designs that are out now, and when you take them off a vehicle they are not rusting up – and they come off a lot easier too,” explains Ken McNulty, shop manager at Uni-Select member Bolton Auto Parts.
“A lot of people want quality aftermarket parts at a fair price, and most vehicle owners are interested in the longevity of their vehicle, and are willing to spend a little more for quality parts and peace of mind,” explains Doug Curlis, sales manager of Promax Auto Parts Depot. “Boosting premium brake sales really comes down to the technicians. These are the guys who are selling the jobs to the consumers, so depending on what market sector they are in, they may have customers who walk in prepared to buy only on price, so they have a bigger sales job when it comes to the upsell; while other shops that are in markets where the customers are looking for higher-quality brake pads and rotors are going to have an easier go of it.”
“The demand for premium brake products is increasing as the consumer trend is increasingly towards a low-dust, no-noise brake pad with smooth reliable stopping power. We have seen a phenomenal increase in premium-coated rotors, even with the traditional cost-first customer, like the used car lot who wants a product that will not incur ‘lot rot.’ The customer wants a coated rotor that does not rust, looks attractive in an open wheel, and even provides labour savings with the dismantling of the brakes due to the coating on the hub of the rotor,” explains Dean Weber, vice-president of Proforce Automotive.
One strategy that has proven to be effective is arranging for a refresher brake clinic for your local repair shop clients. While it may be a bit challenging to get some of these busy technicians to stay late one night to do a brake clinic (since this is something they think they already know inside out), assure them that they will be pleasantly surprised at some of the new product information you have to share with them. Be sure as well to use this opportunity to share key sales and marketing advice that you and your supplier partners can provide to them that can increase their sales volume and profitability.
It can be a good exercise to go through the logic of a typical brake purchase with them. By taking the time to share with the customer the differences between a white-box brake pad and a quality pad that includes new hardware, as well as the differences between a white-box rotor and a quality coated rotor, it’s often easy to upsell a customer that originally walked in bent on getting the lowest price, when for the sake of a few extra dollars, the shop can do a quality job with something that has longevity, stopping power, and is non-squeak and the rotors won’t rust or warp.
“We are seeing newer vehicles in the aftermarket service bays sooner now, and typically that consumer will be keeping the vehicle for a longer period and will want to invest in better brake components, like a superior mid-grade or premium ceramic pad and an upgrade from economy to coated rotors,” adds Weber.
“I believe the demand for premium rotors is growing as a result of the advent of the coated rotor,” says Curlis. “The growing demand is not going to the premium regular rotor but to the coated rotor. We can’t keep them on the shelf. The price points are closer now and it’s probably half the price of the name-brand first line rotors and it’s a premium coated rotor.”
“Our pricing is close on both the first- and second-line brake parts so people trust the parts. We find we are selling more and more of the first line. People are clearly looking for more quality and reliability now. Coated rotors are also very popular these days,” explains Bestbuy member Eduardo Gabarro, owner of West End Auto Supply in Toronto.
Typically, when you show a customer several different rotors they can’t really see any difference between a second-line and a first-line rotor. But when you put a coated rotor on the counter they can see the difference and they can understand how it will help the rotor to not rust and understand it will help it to perform better, last longer and cool better because the fins will not get caked up with rust and dust, reducing the ventilation of the rotor. These are tangible benefits the customer can see, which make the upsell to better-quality brake components that much easier.
“I think most brands offer hardware with the ceramic pads now, so that helps to eliminate uneven pad wear and [allows] more responsive braking. Selling a premium coated rotor that is not only a rust protector but also comes with OE weights, fins, and other characteristics will help to eliminate pulsating brakes and heat checks. Choosing a good mid-grade ceramic pad that is scorched in for proper mating with the rotors, and making sure to remind the technician to properly torque the lug nuts, will all go a long way to eliminating braking issues and result in selling more brakes to your customer,” adds Weber.
Most consumers trust their service providers to make the best technology choices for their vehicles and budgets. If a consumer shows some price sensitivity, the counterperson or shop professional should clearly explain the disadvantages of choosing a lower-quality part, including potential noise issues and shorter service life.
Jobbers and technicians can sell the benefits of premium parts through a wide range of creative and impactful point-of-sale materials provided by their suppliers. These tools help the jobber or shop professional educate the consumer on the value of investing in premium-quality brake products.
When it comes to older vehicle maintenance, it often comes down to how many times that vehicle has been sold. If one person has owned the vehicle for 12 years, the maintenance has likely been done on a regular basis and the owner will likely continue to invest in quality maintenance products; but if it has been sold multiple times, chances are good that the most recent owner may not be so eager to spend a lot on maintenance and repairs. They may be looking for the lowest price point for parts, making the upsell to better-quality brake parts a bit more challenging.
“It’s up to the jobber to make sure their technician customers are up to date on the latest product offerings. Service is key. The jobbers have to train the technician so they know what products are available and the pros and cons of the product,” adds Curlis.
OE or better-than-OE quality is an important benchmark for automotive service providers who want to earn more of the consumer’s business across all repair categories. Because a brake job is one of the first service opportunities on a late-model vehicle, it’s vital that the shop get it right the first time, which means quiet operation, excellent stopping power, and outstanding pedal feel. The best way to hit that target every time is by relying on high-quality premium brake pads and rotors from a trusted suppl

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