Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2014   by Steve Pawlett

Premium Brake Products: Selling Quality, Performance, and Price

Several key factors are hard at work driving the growth of premium brake products. Primarily, the price point between first-line and second-line brake pads and rotors is closer than it has been in some time, and this is making it easier for jobbers to upsell clients to a premium product at a reasonable price. As well, many customers who are still stinging from their experience during the recession, when cheap parts were the rage, now specifically request brand-name replacement parts. After buying inferior brake parts and experiencing the rapid failure of these products, customers, repair shop technicians, and consumers alike now want to ensure they are getting premium quality components.
“All we used to sell were premium brake products; but then, with the way the economy went about four years ago when we were on the downslide, we took on a line of economy rotors and they started moving really well for us,” explains Brodie Rice, co-owner with Allan MacDonald of AM Auto Parts, a Carquest member in PEI. “But in the last 12 months, I’m now seeing it go the other way again. People are actually looking for quality; customers are looking for a longer life and better performance from the product. They soon realize if it’s $50 for an economy rotor and $80 for the good ones, you will get twice the life from the good ones, so it’s $80 well spent – instead of having to buy the economy rotors twice. Even when you don’t have any money it’s still a wise decision to go with the premium rotor.”
Ernie Fields, sales manager for ProMax Auto Parts Depot, says, “I believe the demand for premium rotors is growing as a result of the advent of 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.
“We have 20% more pure steel in our coated rotors, and that’s a big reason our premium rotors are selling more now. Many jobbers are cutting back on the SKUs because the first-line rotors have not been selling. It’s not to say that the premium rotors should not be as expensive as they are, but almost everything is coming from China now, so the price should not be as prohibitive the way it has been with the other first-line rotors out there,” says Fields.
“Now the coated rotor has come in and is much more reasonable – you can buy it for an extra $10 or $15. They last longer, look better, and the rust factor is not completely eradicated, but it is for a certain length of time,” he adds.
“When a customer looks at several rotors, he can’t really see any difference between a second-line and a first-line rotor, but if you put a coated rotor on the counter, he can see the difference and he can understand how it will help the rotor not to rust and 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. Our Bremsen coated rotor helps the market sell a value to the customer,” explains Kevin Fleury, sales director, Transbec Auto Parts.
“The best thing jobbers can do is take advantage of all the information available to them from their suppliers and arrange refresher brake clinics for their repair shop clients,” says Fleury. “It may not be easy to get the technicians to stay late one night to do a brake clinic since this is something they think they already know well, but I think it’s necessary.”
Angelo Fiorito, sales manager for Paste Auto Parts in Toronto, agrees. “The hardest thing to do is a brake clinic, because all technicians think they know everything there is to know about brakes. Even though there is changing technology and changing formulations, technicians don’t believe you have anything new to teach them.
“I’m a technician from the old days and I was trained differently then. We weren’t parts replacement people; we would address the problem and fix it,” explains Fiorito. “I have spent a lot of time with technicians and explained to them why you don’t have to replace the parts again; what you have to do is correct the problem. Make sure the sliders are working, make sure the pad is moving in the hardware, which it is not. Sand down the pad a bit because it’s now glazed up. Put it back in and let the car drive away. You can do this real quick,” explains Fiorito. “But times have changed and most just put in another set now.”
Located in a heavily ethnic area of north Toronto, Paste Auto Parts has a very diverse clientele. “We have a heavy immigrant population that is challenged financially. They look for a value quotient, big time. Best bang for the buck. We sell the ProMax line, which is probably 80% of our sales. We carry three lines here: the Promax with or without the hardware; Wagner Quick Stop line, some with hardware some without; and we have the Bendix brand for the first line, some with and without hardware.
“We have some clients who are used car dealers, and we’re talking 10- and 12-year-old used cars, so they are the worst when it comes to demanding cheaper parts. We can buy cheaper rotors and pads, but we tell them we won’t do that, and now some of them are our best clients because we took the time to educate them on how spending a little more on parts will save them in the long run,” says Fiorito.
“I go through the logic of the purchase with them. The difference between a lousy pad and a quality pad is $10, and the difference between a lousy rotor and quality rotor is $5. So for an extra $30, they can do a quality job with something that has longevity, stopping power, and is non-squeak and the rotors won’t warp. This way, they avoid the comeback to re-do the job at their cost when something fails. In some cases, they have to turn around and educate their customers as well on why it is worthwhile to spend the extra $30. But in the long run, everyone benefits.”
Christopher Battershell, director, braking, North America, Federal-Mogul Vehicle Components business segment, says, “Most consumers trust their service providers to make the best technology choices for their vehicles and budget. 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.
“Wagner Brake and Federal-Mogul help jobbers and service providers sell the benefits of premium parts through a wide range of creative and impactful point-of-sale materials, including a new Wagner OE21 in-store display, posters, counter mat, and much more. These tools help the jobber or shop professional educate the consumer on the value of investing in premium-quality brake products,” adds Battershell.
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 a high-quality premium brake pads and rotors from a trusted manufacturer.