When I started my official career in the automotive business 33 years ago, the No. 1-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, around 1980, the Escort arrived on the scene and brought with it the FL 400. Today, the Ford stores tell me there are about six different kinds of filters.
I know that doesn’t sound like a big jump, but that’s only the number of filters – and on 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 number of models each of them produces? When you add in the components and technology that’s in and on vehicles today, it all adds 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 OEs individually have tried to get the condition in check over the last 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 keeping the nearly 240 million vehicles in the U.S. on the road. I know we’re up to this particular challenge, too.
By the way, did you know that the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid goes on sale in January?
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