The aftermarket’s real perception problem

Feb 12, 2013

The introduction of a bill (S. 1051) in the state of Oklahoma that would require motorists to receive a written disclosure regarding the use of an aftermarket emissions, safety or crash-related part should be a wake-up call that our industry has a real perception problem with elected officials. While the bill only specifies that the disclosure must happen if the repair is being paid for by an insurance company, it is clear that legislators have very little understanding of our industry or the quality or origin of aftermarket related parts.

Clearly, a disclosure requirement such as the one under consideration in Oklahoma will put a negative stigma in the consumer’s mind regarding the use of a part not manufactured by the car company. No matter what the repair shop does to explain the law, the consumer is going to wonder why a disclosure is required in the case of an aftermarket part and not the original equipment part.

Of course, a key reason for the perception regarding aftermarket parts is the marketing being done by the vehicle manufacturers that the only way to be sure that you have the best part on your car is to purchase from them. Yes, the marketing of their product to car owners is fair and to be expected. However, the fact that that the car companies and dealers are moving to secure their market through legislation signals that the competitive marketplace is not working for them, and that they are moving to the legislative theater where they hold more cards.

Whether the bill passes or not, the mere fact that a state is considering these disclosures at all should send warning flags up in our industry that we need to work together to defeat this attack on the reputation of aftermarket parts. Everyone in the industry must take responsibility to educate legislators and regulators that aftermarket parts are either as good or, in many cases, better than the original equipment part that it is replacing. In fact, the aftermarket often improves on a part since we have the fortunate opportunity to observe the part in use and can determine where there might be a problem with the OE design. Further, aftermarket parts are often built by the same company that the produced the OE part, only the label on the box is different.

The bottom line is that it is critical that everyone send letters and/or meet with legislators to defeat these bills before they have a chance to move any further.

I can guarantee you that if you don’t speak up in support of your company’s own product, and our industry overall, don’t expect legislators to see through the allegations by the car companies that only their parts are high quality. Yes, I know that parts producers in our industry compete against each other for the spending dollars of consumers. However, the threat of legislation and regulation in the aftermarket parts industry impacts all companies in our industry and demands that everyone go on the offensive together, letting legislators know that bills such as the one in Oklahoma are misguided and will only end up hurting their constituents in higher repair prices with no impact on parts quality.

Companies with facilities in the state of Oklahoma can quickly send a letter to their elected official on the aftermarket parts legislation by visiting: http://aaia.aristotle.com/Pages/TakeAction.aspx.

Aaron M. Lowe is vice president, government affairs, for the Automobile Aftermarket Industry Association. This blog was originally published by the AAIA for a weekly government affairs-focused blog that covers a variety of issues and topics.