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Which Is It?


2/1/2005
By Brian Cruickshank

Consumers say they want quality. The big question is: Are they willing to pay for it?
 

Price or quality? Which is it? Which do you try to sell and which do your customers tend to buy?

In a perfect world, everyone would buy premium product. The repair shop would be getting a part they could hang with confidence, with all the fit, form and function that comes with a quality product. The warehouse and parts store would be happy too because they'd be making a nice margin along the way.

However, as we all know, the automotive parts world doesn't really work that way. That's why there are multiple quality levels in the market, often three (sometimes four) levels of quality per line. The market tries its level best to provide a repair solution for every budget, but all too often the easy sell is made on price alone. Thankfully, there are no levels of labor quality (within the same shop), so the only place to cut corners is on the parts a shop specs.

So which is it? Price or quality? The reality is that consumers want them both, and again, the market does its best to achieve that. But it's a balance that can never really be struck. A gain in quality invariably comes at the expense of price, pushing them to levels that some consumers refuse to pay.

If you ask consumers what they want, often they speak out of both sides of their mouths. A recent study by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) says that consumers ranked quality and trust as the top two factors when deciding who will repair their vehicles. While consumers say they want quality, the larger question is: Are they willing to pay for it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I suppose the quality level heavily depends on the repair shop itself and the kinds of motorists it attracts. We will always have repair shops and motorists who want the cheapest parts they can find. Regardless of who the customer is, I believe not everyone wants quality, but all want trust.

Quality and trust are interrelated in our business. Motorists choose the repair shops they trust because they believe those shops will deliver quality - quality diagnosis and labor, as well as quality parts. Are consumers willing to pay for quality? Often not. But I would argue that most would be willing to pay for trust - trust knowing that the brake repair was done correctly with parts that will not fail when it matters most.

AAIA President Kathleen Schmatz, recently said, "Repair shops who currently advertise and market on price alone should rethink their strategy to meet the expectations and motivations of today's more savvy motorist customer. Convenience, speed of service and their past experiences with a service provider are more important than cost of service to consumers."

So in the end, those of us in the parts and service business are not really selling quality. We're selling trust. And isn't that something worth paying for ?















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