Article > Opinion

Why is it in Vogue?

By Mitch Schneider

I don’t know where or when it became fashionable to crucify the aftermarket companies that have trained, serviced and supported the repair community for more than four generations.
Mitch Schneider

It was apparently another Kodak moment. It was the need to capture the image of a failed part before it began its long journey to the Land of Failed Parts, the land where parts go to die … or, languish … or, do whatever it is failed parts do in the Land of Failed Parts.

This time it was a lower control arm with just 13 miles on it.

Interestingly enough, the vehicle was not returned because of a problem with the lower control arm. In fact, the vehicle owner had no idea there was anything wrong with it. The vehicle had come back for a noise, one of many when the vehicle arrived. And now it’s the only noise remaining after a fair amount of steering and suspension work was completed. This particular noise was being caused by a collapsed insulator at the bottom of the spring seat on a front strut that should have … and, probably would have been replaced, had the consumer not insisted there was absolutely no money left to pay for another anything!

In the process of road testing the vehicle to ensure there was nothing else that might come back to bite us in a place that might make sitting down more than a little uncomfortable, we spent an inordinate amount of time looking over everything we had done. Putting the vehicle under that kind of extreme scrutiny can reveal a lot. One of my techs noticed a couple of areas on a lower control arm and ball joint where the shiny black factory enamel had cracked and chipped off along a very fine line at the bottom of the weld retaining the lower ball joint to the arm. It was certainly far more obvious – and, visible – bearing the weight of the vehicle. But, as you can see, the line is still visible even after the arm was removed from the vehicle.

Under normal circumstances I might not even write about this event, at least not now. In fact, I was going to write about something very different this evening. However, I just read another scathing indictment of aftermarket parts manufacturers and manufacturing on the Internet, and I found the timing of this particular failure in conjunction with the rant I had just read fascinating. It was mostly because the part I was holding in my hand just a few hours earlier had come from a dealership parts department.

I don’t know where or when it became fashionable to crucify the aftermarket companies that have trained, serviced and supported the repair community for more than four generations. I don’t know where it comes from, when it started or why anyone would fall prey to such spurious and poorly supported arguments. But, evidently there are those who have.

I’m aware of the arguments — inadequate quality control, poor engineering, improper fit, incorrect application, “country of origin,” and a host of other charges suggesting the only real source of quality is the original equipment manufacturer, the friendly folks who put the vehicle together. I just don’t buy it!

“That dog won’t hunt!” as a former president was wont to say. And, the failed OE part I just returned confirms it.

Aside from that, I know too much, I’ve been around too long. I know of too many instances where the supplier accused of distributing parts of questionable quality to the aftermarket is the very same Tier 1 supplier furnishing the identical part to vehicle maker.

And what happens to that argument when you’re told the part in question, the part you just installed and just now had to remove – at your cost and customer’s inconvenience – the original equipment part purchased from a franchised dealer – was manufactured in a land far, far away? It evaporates, doesn’t it!

The bottom line is simple, this is one case where the W’s: Who built it, What it costs, Where it was put together, When it was made or When you can get it, or, Why – why it is either good or bad, adequate or inadequate, do not apply! The only question that matters here is How?

How is the quality measured, maintained or ensured? How carefully was it manufactured? And, how carefully was it inspected?

Realistically, it doesn’t matter where the part was made. It doesn’t even matter who made it. When it comes to manufactured parts buried deep within the belly of the beast the only thing that matters is the ‘How!’ How much you care… How you handle failure … How much … or, how little, you are willing to support the product once it’s at the factory or the warehouse?

How much respect do you, or the people who supply the parts that you deliver, the parts that flow through my business, have for me and people like me? How much respect do you have for our industry? And, how much, or how little, are you willing to do to either earn that respect or to keep it?

  Previous Comments
avatar   Daniel @ Oreillys   star   1/7/2010   3:13 PM

Mitch you are exactly right I have been fighting this problem for many years now. I myself am alittle tied in to a point such as AC plugs for GM, Autolite for Ford Champion for Dodge, but its amazing that the aftermarket and Dealers share alot of the same manufacturers such as Delphi, Motorcraft, Ngk, Bosch, Etc.... but we catch flack that aftermarket is not up to parr in truth some aftermarket parts are actually superior.

avatar   clay   star   12/12/2009   4:33 PM

mitch, you hit this one on the nose. i work for an aftermarket supplier and that is the story all of the time. being the installer salesman, i here about how my parts don't measure up to dealer parts. the funny thing is that the dealers outsource a ton of parts from us aftermarket guys because of quality of availability reasons. so much for oe parts at the dealer...

avatar   Dan   star   12/3/2009   7:02 PM

That control arm must have been made at 2:00 PM on a friday.

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