Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2009   by David Halpert

What’s Driving It?

Reman Driveline and Steering Parts:

Since every customer’s mix is unique to the vehicles in his market, and therefore jobbers’ inventories vary from store to store, steering and driveline parts have always provided a challenge.

In addition, many of these products (for instance, rack-and-pinion units and CV driveshafts) take up a lot of space, an increasing problem as parts proliferation hits every product category. Jobbers have looked to price across all product categories to help ameliorate the financial burden of this and still deliver solid coverage.

“With the influx of so many offshore competitors, the focus has been who can offer the best price. Most suppliers lack a full-line program, however. The reman option has remained a viable one because it can provide that broad coverage that the new

lacks. Additionally, many customers still prefer reman, and when it is priced right, it sells,” says Tony Edwards, director of marketing for Cardone Industries.

Despite the high quality of most reman products, many jobbers are either pulling back on reman or reluctant to invest more into reman due to the costs of handling, freight/delivery, and general space required in housing core returns.

“You’re handling the garbage, the rust, the dirt, and the grease; and a lot of [technicians] don’t clean them out so the oil spills. You’re constantly cleaning up, so it’s very messy and dirty, whereas if you sell a new water pump or a new drive axle or whatever, you don’t have to [clean up]. They can recycle their own product,” says Roger Copeland, president of Raco Auto Supply Ltd. in St. Catharines, Ont.

For driveline components (especially lengthy ones such as propshafts and CV drive axles), units are sometimes up to five feet long and therefore pose stocking challenges, often hanging over the end of the shelf so the boxes can be easily damaged.

Despite some of the challenges that come with handling steering and driveline components, jobbers are very aware of the fact that reman is essential in both categories in order to succeed. It should be no surprise that this is largely the result of availability, parts proliferation, or some poor quality units coming from offshore new products.

“Many offshore competitors face quality challenges [due to] lack of reverse-engineering capabilities. They are masters of copying what they see, which may include copying an OE defect,” continues Edwards. “Cores will show why the OE unit is failing; when you see a repeated failure you can institute a fix over the original design. Warranty analysis obviously allows the remanufacturer to see problems they may have in their process and fix it; oftentimes offshore manufacturers will not take warranty units back and they will just give credit. They do not want to pay the return freight.”

Nevertheless, two product categories that are seeing increased growth in steering and driveline parts are rack-and-pinion units and CV driveshafts.

“The move from steering gears to rack-and-pinion has definitely been a boon to rack-and-pinion usage and replacement rates. When I say usage, I mean they’re finding their way into more [light] trucks than ever today,” says Joel Fenwick, vice-president of Fenwick Automotive.

“What you want to do is satisfy customer demand, and it depends on which way the wind is blowing. Two years ago, the wind was blowing towards brand-new imported CV shafts. Today, the tides have turned to reman, because reman is at the same quality level or better,” continues Fenwick. “The new shafts that came out of Asia were few and far between. [You could tell] they did a lot of homogenizing of joint components. When we remanufacture a CV shaft we grind the original outer joint, which was actually built and properly sized for that vehicle.”

And for the jobber, and the technician, the assurance of quality can outweigh all other factors in deciding what goes on the shelf and on the vehicle.

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