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Aftermarket parts: Do we know where we stand and what we are using?

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 12:16
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Many of us in the industry have painful memories of heated discussions about whether or not aftermarket parts should exist, if a quality oriented shop should use them, and if their use should be legislatively required or regulated. We’ve had countless “fit test” presentations in the past, including at NACE and CIC meetings. We’ve argued what the role of insurers should be in regard to their use, including considering if insurers should require their use or involve themselves in legislative regulation and parts certification.

Legislative efforts still appear periodically, but otherwise, I believe we should declare most of those wars over. Aftermarket parts are widely used by MSOs and are commonly measured in the KPIs we all focus on with insurers. Simply the fact that they have been widely used over the past 10 years or more leads me to believe there is no point in debating their existence and use. However, I pose the question to you as an MSO: does your staff really understand the differences in aftermarket parts and what all the acronyms stand for? Are they making the best decisions regarding what type of aftermarket part is used for any given situation? Do they know what certification means, and that there are different certifications for parts, jobbers and manufacturers? Just because a jobber or manufacturer is certified, it does not necessarily mean that a part is certified. Does your staff understand the standards and what tests are performed to declare it as certified? Do they understand that some of the acronyms we are accustomed to from large aftermarket vendors could spur the assumption that a part is certified, when in reality, the acronym more relates to packaging, return rates and tracking of the part for potential recall issues? I know from personal experience — some of the insurance representatives that pressure us to increase usage don’t fully understand the terms, differences and implications. In today’s world of liability and litigation, it is wise to protect ourselves through intelligent choices that minimize risk. Some categories of aftermarket parts come with a promise of protection from liability for the shop. Do you know which categories they are?

As independent business operators, it is up to us to make wise parts purchase decisions and to intelligently explain to our customers the characteristics of alternative parts so that they can have full understanding and play a role in the decisions. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Gaining understanding is our responsibility. As we are pressured to provide certain levels of aftermarket parts usage, we must avoid the trap of assuming they are all the same. They are not.

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