This is exactly why I call the dealership," explained my local technician as he looked at the sad state of my front calipers, DOT 4 draining into the pan near our feet.
He wasn't bemoaning quality. He was annoyed about availability. And I was dismayed that yet again, I was being stung by what seemed like a universal lack of VW Jetta calipers in the world.
On this particular subject I may sound like a broken record - and you'd be right. Well, sort of.
For those Counterman readers who care to remember, exactly one year ago in this space I wrote about my grand search for another pair of Jetta calipers - that time they were rears. None could be found, until after a protracted and lengthy search. This time I needed a set of fronts, and voil - nothing. Or at least so we thought.
It's an awfully good thing that I had a darn good (and persistent) parts guy on my side. He looked and looked, and called manufacturers and WDs to no avail. In desperation, we called [cough] the OE dealer, who said he could get them to us in four days for $300.
As an aftermarket guy, it pains me to call the OE dealer. And every time one of your customers calls the dealer, it should pain you too - right in the wallet. But as my technician reminded me that day, there are times when he has no choice, and maybe this was just one of those times.
Through experience, hocus pocus, crystal balls, magic potions or whatever else he used, my parts guy was able to determine that the part number quoted in the catalog was wrong - thus the reason for no calipers. Ah, but once the right part number was found, a local supplier was able to come up with 10 sets of loaded Jetta front calipers. Funny how that works.
So this availability issue isn't so straight forward after all. Can't sell 'em if you can't find 'em, ya know? In last year's rear caliper example, the calipers really were very, very difficult to find. In the case of the fronts, they were available - very available in fact - but hiding behind an incorrect number. In each case the result was the same (at least in the technician's mind): no aftermarket availability.
I know the parts guy looked as hard as he did for these calipers because he's a friend. But in everyday circumstances, no one has time to spend three hours looking for a mystery part, so the sale would have gone to the OE dealer, and I would have been without a car for four days.
This story illustrates two problems: the limitations of cataloging and the gap in availability that forces technicians to source from the OE dealer. Both netted the same result: lost sales for the store. This industry prides itself on its ability to have the right part at the right time. Until we're better at this, we will continue to lose sales to the OEs.
Then again, maybe next time I'll just buy a Chevy.