I was fortunate to be part of Leadership 2.0, a 2-week-long set of courses at the University of the Aftermarket at Northwood University. The first week-long set of courses was held September 2008 in Midland, Mich. The group of 25 of us returned in April to complete our coursework.
It’s a great opportunity to not only meet with other aftermarket professionals, but more importantly, discuss some hot-button issues that are on our minds. It just so happened, that the coursework included making a presentation in front of the class that aimed to solve what we believe to be an industry problem. The class of 25 was broken into five groups of five. I was grouped with a manager of parts stores and a repair shop owner, among others, and it didn’t take long to get to a discussion of VIN.
To me, and everyone else we talked to, it seems counterproductive to rely on several sources of information just to find the correct part for an automobile. For example, during our research on creating a fully VIN-assisted catalog, we posed the question of how to find brake rotors for a particular 1999 Ford F-150 using current aftermarket cataloging. As anyone reading this knows, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s a whole slew of questions that need to be answered to find the exact rotors. For example, are they 5-,7-, or 8-lug? Is it for an F-150 with two-wheel or four-wheel ABS?
But when someone looks up the rotors in the Ford Microcat, what do they see? A blue highlight telling them exactly which part to grab. What’s the difference between the OE and aftermarket cataloging? It’s the information fed into each. It’s the VIN.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the manner in which an aftermarket catalog operates. But to be the best it can be, it needs true VIN information. Lookup without VIN is harder than it has to be.
VIN is the best way to ensure the aftermarket is getting the most complete information regarding parts. VIN is truly the DNA of an automobile.
It simply tells a vehicle’s story from the ground up. The question is, what’s the best way to go about getting full VIN information?
One possible avenue is to continue cooperative efforts with the OEs in hopes that one day a deal will be struck that will give us the information we need.
There’s never been a more appropriate time to seek this information. An estimated 2,000 new car dealerships are expected to close in 2009 alone. And with those closings will go the repair bays that some motorists mistakenly believe they have to rely on for warranty work.
The aftermarket can make a compelling argument that given the state of the automotive manufacturing industry and the rapid closing of new car dealerships and repair bays, that it’s never been more important to have unfettered aftermarket access to VIN.
There’s another way. The aftermarket could seek VIN through a modified version of Right to Repair legislation. Getting VIN through legislation certainly won’t be easy, but the rewards are definitely worth it. I think it’s obvious we all would benefit by the VIN, the whole VIN and nothing but the VIN. But what’s the best way to go about it?