Aftermarket (A/M) crash parts have had one roller coaster of a year: On one hand, the Consumer Reports cover story on A/M parts brought a lot of negative attention to them and opened the eyes of a lot of consumers. On the other hand, at the Collision Industry Conference’s (CIC) recent "fit and finish" demonstration using replacement parts from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), parts approved by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) and an A/M headlamp, both of the CAPA parts fared as well or better than the OEM part. And, unlike the two previous parts demonstrations held by CIC, this was a blind test — the participants didn’t know which parts were OEM and which ones weren’t (the theory being that participants are bias against A/M parts and score them lower if they know they’re working with them. And, based on these results, it may not be a bad theory).
So, what’s the consensus? Do collision repairers like A/M parts or hate them? Like most things in life, it’s not that black and white; many shop owners strongly do oppose A/M parts — but not necessarily because they’re totally opposed to the parts themselves. What they’re opposed to is insurers forcing A/M parts down their throats.
It all goes back to shop owners being in business because they want to be their own boss and make their own decisions. And having an outside source — insurers in this case — telling them what they can and can’t do goes over about as well as a cement life preserver. Granted, repairers aren’t being held at gunpoint by insurance companies and forced to use A/M parts, but many shop owners say the threat is implied: Use A/M parts or we’ll take our business elsewhere.
And most shop owners do, indeed, use them. When asked if they purchase A/M crash parts, 75.8 percent of our respondents said yes, and 24.2 percent said no.
Let’s talk about the "no" people first.
Says one of our "no" respondents: "I wouldn’t buy or put aftermarket parts on any car or truck. I’d rather go out of business."
Why is that? Why don’t 24.2 percent of our respondents purchase A/M parts? About 87.5 percent said poor quality, 78.1 percent said poor fit, 12.5 percent said no profit, 6.3 percent said no supplier and 6.3 percent said they buy only OEM parts.
On the other hand, why do 75.8 percent of our respondents purchase A/M parts? About 75.6 percent said because they feel pressured by insurance companies, 14.4 percent because of a better profit margin, 4.4 percent because they like them and 26.9 percent said for other reasons (such as at the customer’s request. Says one respondent: "Customers request the cheapest way.").
Some of the respondents who said they feel pressured to buy A/M parts made these comments:
• "It’s more accurate to say insurance companies force aftermarket parts."
• "Insurance companies don’t give you a choice."
• "If you don’t write your estimate with [A/M parts], you won’t get the job!"
• "[A/M parts are] expected and mandated by insurance companies."
Those who buy A/M parts said they return them, on average, 27 percent of the time, up from 18.5 percent in last year’s survey. Reasons given for returning them were mainly because of poor fit, poor quality or damage.
The consensus, based on our survey results, seems to be overwhelmingly against A/M parts. But, again, it’s not necessarily true that shop owners are against A/M parts per se — after all, when they don’t know they’re working with them, such as at the CIC demo, they don’t have as much of a problem with them. What they do have a problem with, however, is being told they have to use them.
Writer Georgina Kajganic is editor of BodyShop Business.