According to jobbers, three factors are currently driving brake pad and rotor sales: rising average vehicle age, growing consumer demand for quality parts, and the decreasing service life of vehicle parts. These factors are contributing to a strong and growing market for brake components – but are customers consistently receiving the quality parts they are looking for? According to the Jobber News Brake & Rotor Survey, the answer is no, not always. While over 85% of jobbers who responded say this sector is expanding and will continue to do so, many complained that some technicians aren’t giving consumers the opportunity to select a premium brake product for their vehicle. As one respondent explains, “Many service centres purchase on price and are not giving the customer the option of better quality brake components. When given the option, most end-users will purchase brakes and rotors that are of a better quality. By not giving the customer that option, they are missing out an opportunity to upgrade to premium brake products that will perform better and result in a satisfied, repeat customer.” Another said, “There are just too many ‘value’ items that continue to come out in this segment of the market. Brake components are a vehicle safety product, and there needs to be more integrity in the marketplace to provide the end-user with products that will stop their vehicle safely and provide customer satisfaction in the way of noise and durability.” Dividing sales into Good, Better, and Best categories, our survey shows the strongest sales are now coming from the “Best” category, indicating that consumers are ready and willing to invest in premium aftermarket brake components. Sales in the entry level or “Good” category are running a close second, indicating that price is still a strong factor for many customers as well. While many respondents commented on the increasing demand for quality brake components, they also commented on the continuing problem with inferior quality brake products flooding the market and muddying the waters. As one respondent explains, “Every day in every product category, some consumers are making buying decisions without being fully informed of the potential drawbacks of those decisions. In the brake category some consumers mistakenly believe that an entry-level product will serve their needs as well as a premium part.” “The brake market has the ability to grow a lot more. With improving prices and quality, we can keep customers from going to the dealer to get the best brake pads and rotors. We have to make people realize that they don’t have to go to the OE to get the proper fit and function. We can deliver it and do it for less money.” With consumers looking to stretch their dollars, it makes sense to use premium pads and rotors, which provide a longer life to their braking system and reduce the frequency of brake service work. For instance, all major brands now offer low-copper or copper-free brake pads, which all offer superior performance characteristics, including low noise, low dust, and increased durability. Looking at how pads and rotors are selected for purchase, our survey shows that price is still the biggest factor at almost 60%. Customers looking for quality were a distant second, representing just over 35% of sales. For brakes and rotors the brand factor was almost non-existent, coming in at just under 6%. “Customers who look for the cheaper parts often do so because they don’t know any better, so they go with what they know, which is price. But if you take the time to educate them on why that price point is junk and why they really need to spend some more money for a proper product, you can, more often than not, make that sale,” adds another respondent. The industry consensus is that newer vehicle owners will be more prone to purchase a premium brake product than someone with a 10-year-old vehicle. What jobbers and technicians need to do is to ask those pertinent questions on driving habits, owner’s expectations and/or needs, affordability, and other factors. For instance, more vehicles are open-wheel, and the wheel is more relevant in the appearance of the vehicle, so coated premium rotors that resist rusting along with a premium ceramic pad are more popular and a logical upgrade choice for many customers, when they are made aware of this option. “The brake market is a growing market, but we need to educate salespeople as well as technicians about proper brake system maintenance so they can sell a better quality brake job, thus increasing both profits and driver safety and satisfaction.” “As independents we need more training on how and why it is the best so we can sell the best first. Too many times we just don’t spend enough time with customers to understand their needs, how they drive and where, and whether they pull a trailer, etc.” Another respondent complained, “There are too many SKUs and narrow year coverage and it is vital we stay successful in this category so fewer customers are going to dealers for brake service. Our potential really depends on how we go to market, and what kind of product offering we have.” “As jobbers we should offer a good, better, best selection and appeal to as many technician customers as possible, and market the merits of added values such as fast delivery times, extended warranties, and strong product coverage.” “There are significant differences between entry-level and premium parts, and it’s in our best interest to recommend products and services that will keep the consumer safe and offer the performance and reliability they need,” concludes another respondent. This survey clearly shows that for the most part, jobbers are focused on providing both technicians and consumers with product information, a comprehensive selection of quality parts, efficient service, and the warranty support they need to help them make an informed buying decision.