One of the reasons I have always been proud to be a part of this industry is that it gives consumers true value … quality parts, knowledgeable technicians and real value for the money spent. I know auto repairs are one of those subjects many complain about, but I have been around long enough to know that customers always complain about the invoice. However, if the works is done on time and done right the first time, they will always come back.
But, even before I got anywhere near this industry, I was a consumer of automotive service and aftermarket parts. And the reason I always chose aftermarket product over original equipment products was simple for me: I always knew aftermarket product was better – better engineered, better manufactured, better tested, better value.
Simple logic told me that carmakers built cars to sell. And, to get the car produced at a reasonable price point and to look the way they wanted it to look, the automakers had to make compromises in the design of the components used in the vehicle. On top of that, I realized that the aftermarket manufacturers had the advantage of studying how the OE parts wore, re-engineering the parts to compensate for inherent weaknesses in the original design.
Somehow, though, over the years, we seem to have let that quality advantage melt away, allowing the quality message become a perception of “almost as good,” with the carmakers slowly eroding the truth that aftermarket components are equal to or better than OE parts. Regardless of the reality, perception is what folks believe.
That’s why I have been pleased with the overall “Know Your Parts” campaign out if AASA, and particularly pleased to see that they have taken the campaign a step further, beginning the process of setting up a website for technicians and shop owners that promotes the “what’s in the box” message to the keystone members of the aftermarket channel.
To that end, AASA is now seeking significant input from those technicians and shop owners in the industry regarding what should be available on that site, what types of information will benefit the folks who throw away the box. Those interested in supplying some ideas can go to the site noted above and share their input.
Back in the day, consumers knew that aftermarket product was quality product, backed by brand names that they recognized and knew they could trust in. But brand awareness has diminished over the years, and many of the most recognized aftermarket brands have either faded completely out of sight or have been diluted to the point that they are barely remembered. And, in the breach, there are parts retailers and program groups — today’s recognized brands and the ones that must promote the quality of the product and the quality of the shops that do the work.
Like or not, the world has changed dramatically, and how the message gets to consumers is more complex now then ever. Between social media and other Internet-based entities, consumers are inundated with the marketing message from both carmakers and aftermartketers alike. But, for too long, as an industry, we have allowed others to control the quality message.
Maybe we assume consumers know our parts are the highest quality and, most often, better than the original components. But, through programs like the “Know Your Parts” campaign, maybe we can continue to regain the ground we have lost regarding the quality message.
Gary A. Molinaro