Article > Editor’s Note

Telling the Story of Quality Parts

By Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips

When economic times are tough, people want the cheapest parts installed on their vehicles, right? You may be surprised to hear that in the many conversations I’ve had with both counter professionals and technicians over the past several months during this economic crisis, the overarching theme has been that motorists are requesting and inquiring about quality parts on their vehicles. The reason is simple: They want to make their vehicles last longer because they can’t afford to get new ones.


I trust my repair shop implicitly. Regardless, every time I talk to the service manager, we do a little dance on the telephone. It’s called the “he-doesn’t-want-to-give-me-the-bad-news-dance.” It’s the dance almost anyone in his position performs. After all, who wants to call a customer and tell them about a whopper of a bill? I can hardly blame him because he’s been conditioned to be fearful of making that call. For years, he’s dealt with customers who can’t or won’t fully appreciate the costs of properly repairing an automobile. He’s endured swearing, shouting and questions like, “Why does that cost so much?” and “Do I really need a master cylinder?” These days, the economy is forcing a change in that mentality.


For me, I’ve never been that customer. Why? Because I understand the true value of getting the job done correctly the first time. It’s about using parts from reputable manufacturers that people know by name. It’s because when I’m cruising down the highway at 65 mph with my daughter in her car seat and need to slam on the brakes, I’m confident that the name brand pads I had installed will stop the car when I need them to. I don’t want to be the guy who, while thrilled at getting a $99 brake job, ends up smashed like an accordion into the back of a tractor-trailer because his brake pedal went to the floor and nothing happened.


It’s probably one of the most often-stated and absolutely true old adages in the world — you get what you pay for. And there’s another adage that applies here: Garbage in, garbage out. When a customer gets his or car repaired, at the lowest possible price and using the cheapest possible parts, somehow, somewhere, a reputation suffers. It might not be an immediate impact, but surely, slowly, problematic parts on vehicles tell little stories to their drivers. They don’t use words, of course. But problematic parts lets their drivers know through squeaks, grinding and sometimes, failure, that the fantastic $99 brake job will actually cost a lot more than $99 in the long run. 


Well, in these challenging economic times, motorists are gearing more toward reliability over price more than ever. You have an opportunity to foster the story of how using quality parts is the way to go. It’s something you can talk about each and every time a shop calls or a customer comes into your store. You don’t have a give a big, grandiose speech. But reinforcing the message with every call will surely make an impact. Don’t make the assumption that motorists are still asking for the cheap, cheap, cheap parts. 


The good thing about these tough economic times is that they won’t last forever. 


And when we all come out of it, motorists are likely to stay latched on to the idea of buying quality. 

  Previous Comments
avatar   Chris   star   2/13/2010   4:54 PM

There are those people who seem to value money more than they value their passengers. It's all in the psychology of how you deal with them, especially if they have kids, as Gman pointed out. Let's say you have three grades of brake pads, $20, $40, and $60 respectively. Rotors cost $50 each. The customer wants to know what prices you have on pads. Try this out: "Well, we have our house brand for $20, your basic Chinese pad. If you have kids, I'd recommend the $40 or $60 brands we have here, as well as turning or changing those rotors." More canny customers may notice that, but still the point will be obvious to them: Don't buy the cheap stuff.

avatar   Wolfe   star   8/8/2009   11:49 AM

Maybe I'm just an oddball, but whenever I buy parts, I want to know what the bottom of the barrel is as well as the high end top dollar, so that I can make an educated decision about what I want to pay for the mid-grade stuff. While it might be nice to have the really top end product, I know that the mid-grade stuff is not bad and I refuse to get the apple that was placed at the top of the pile and was fresh 3 weeks ago. Just because it looks pretty, doesn't mean that it will win any beauty pageants.

avatar   Gman   star   2/28/2009   4:08 PM

I spent 3 years on the service before returning to the counter, if one thing is true as a sales person it's your job to accurately portray quality versus value. No doubt everyone wants to pay a fair price, but sometimes consumers are so overwhelmed by getting the best deal it overshadows the need for safety. I don't know how many times I've asked "whats the cheapest tire you have?" and when I go and look outside I'm looking at a Ford Expedition with baby seats in the second and third row!!! We will always be on the balancing scale, with the quality product in one hand and their money in the other.

avatar   Wade   star   2/23/2009   7:20 PM

I agree totally with the what is said here, but in these hard times installers want the cheapest prices. They not only need the money made from labor, but also the markup on the parts they bought and sold. This article was so true during good economic times, but now it's all about making it through the recession.

avatar   Allen   star   2/18/2009   8:02 PM

I completely agree! It's hard to up-sell to customers sometimes, but, as you said, people are going to start looking for longer lasting, quality parts for their cars. You get what you pay for, absolutely. As harsh as it seems saying that at times, I always remember that in the back of my mind. Reflecting back to up-selling, we try and sell the quality part for our benefit, of course, but I also sell the best part for personal reasons. We have all experienced a sour deal with a cheap purchase, whether or not it be automotive. Sometimes it's best to chip out a little [or a lot] more green. If our customers begin to see this (and I have faith that they will), the aftermarket parts industry could skyrocket more than analysts predict. Let's hope for the best!

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