Thirty-three years ago, when I started my official career in the automotive business, the number one selling SKU was the FL1-A. This Motorcraft spin-on filter fit every Ford produced with a spin-on filter, except for a few applications that required a shorter filter, and that was an Fl 300. That’s all you needed to know and have on the shelf to cover oil filters for all the Fords out there. Then, along about 1980 or so, the Escort arrived on the scene and brought with it the Fl 400. Today, the Ford stores tell me there are about six.
I know that does not sound like a big jump, but that is only filters, and for one manufacturer. What about all the other manufacturers (the number of them has also doubled in the same amount of time) and all the increased models each of them produces? When you add in the components and technology that is in and on vehicles today, it all ads up to the condition known as parts proliferation.
Parts proliferation is not entirely new in this business. It has been on the increase for many years. The OE’s individually have tried to get the condition in check over the past 10 years but with all the other influences I described above, it continues to grow exponentially. With the intense competition at the automaker level to bring out new products and the rate at which technology is changing, don’t look for this phenomenon to decrease anytime soon.
The good news is that we have excellent inventory and catalog systems available to assist us in managing all the required inventories. Logistics is light years ahead of where it used to be and the supply chain has been streamlined to take unnecessary steps and time out of moving it through the system. Remember, this is the aftermarket. For more than 60 years, we have solved the problems of parts and have mastered the challenge of keeping the nearly 240 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. So, I know we are up to this one, too.
By the way, do you have wipers for a 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid? They go on sale in January.