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Shaking my head over parts

Sunday, January 1, 2012 - 01:00
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Tony Passwater
There have been two recent position statements issued by the Automotive Service Association about industry repair standards and how the usage of aftermarket parts is acceptable. What are they actually saying?

The industry standards position was issued with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists and the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals. It recognizes two important elements: OE published repair procedures should be the baseline for industry repair standards, and there are gaps that need more development where there are no current published repair procedures.

This is a great beginning, but it's not the carte blanche approval of all OE position statements and opinions, that some have expressed in online comments. There are many tough decisions ahead for standards to be collected, codified, approved and accepted. This will be a long process but an important one to embark upon and support.

The second recent statement is regarded by some as a contradiction to the above, but it's not that simple. When a manufacturer publishes repair procedures, they are assumed to be tested, hence they should be the basis for any industry repair standard. But repair procedures are not the same as published position statements.

If aftermarket parts have a future in the collision industry, they should have the same fit, finish, durability and crash worthiness as OEM parts. Repairers and consumers don't care about the label on the box as long as the above needs are met. We have used aftermarket mechanical parts for years without problems.

There are standards in existence for the parts themselves by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) and Diamond Standard, plus a new standard of process by NSF International for the suppliers and distributors of crash parts. So why do we still have so many junk parts?

I know from personally examining the CAPA standards that if every manufacturer of the parts followed the standards on a consistent basis, we wouldn't have such a wide range of opinions about aftermarket crash parts. Nor would we have as many providers of sub-standard parts.

But I have found mostly a lack of commitment from insurers, repairers and information providers to demand that the standards be met. Also, there are no deterrents for parts that don't meet the standards, such as taking them out of our systems. In fact, at some point those parts should be banned from entry if manufacturers continue to depart from the standard. But that hasn't happened.

It is shocking how many crash parts, structural and non-structural, don't meet the CAPA or Diamond Standard requirements. The process standard by NSF International is very new. Although there is a requirement to document when an unacceptable part is delivered through the process, it does not address the manufacturers that simply do not provide the part that does not meet an acceptable standard for the part itself.

One of the greatest challenges is the "policing" of the quality of the parts and any modifications required to make them fit. Unfortunately, that has historically been placed on the repairers' shoulders and is hidden from the consumer. That simply is not acceptable any longer.

A first step is to develop a quantifiable system where documentation is available. We have done this with the Database Enhancement Gateway for the accuracy of our database repair times. Now it's time to do it with aftermarket parts. This online site can accurately centralize the issues, corrections needed, and even the parts that do meet our standards for usage. Each case would be listed by manufacturer, distributor, batch number and part number, plus allow for photos to show issues and corrections.

Instead of placing the correction required to make the parts fit or be used as a transaction between the part distributor and repairer, it should be an additional line item on the repair order.

This will certainly change the commitment by insurers to support only quality parts. I also believe if these two items were in place, repairers would not be shaking their heads about aftermarket parts. However, the OEMs will be shaking their heads about how all the junk parts have disappeared.

Tony Passwater, president of AEII, has been in the collision industry since 1972.

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