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The Ongoing Debate: OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts

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In light of the evolving and increasingly complex technological systems on vehicles, people within and adjacent to the collision repair industry have taken a stance on manufactured original parts vs. aftermarket parts.

On one side, you have the OEM advocates like Aaron Schulenburg, executive director for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. This side, he says, are almost so adamant about the quality and safety that OEM parts guarantee that they don’t think it’s even necessary to have a debate. Diving into the unknown of how other parts affect the vehicle’s system performance is not a chance they would like to take.

On the other side, people like Edward Salamy make a case for aftermarket parts. As the executive director for the Automotive Body Parts Association, Salamy promotes the use of aftermarket parts for the reduced cost of repair for the consumer. Eliminating aftermarket parts could create a monopoly and take the customer out of the driver seat, he says.

On top of Schulenburg and Salamy, automakers and legislators have recently become vocal in the OEM vs. aftermarket part conversation. Here’s what reignited the debate, and how each side of the discussion is its respective case.

 

The Ongoing Debate

The OEM vs. aftermarket debate was recently resparked on a legislative level with Rhode Island Senate Bill 2679 (SB 2679), which was introduced March 20 by State Senators Maryellen Goodwin, Dominick Ruggerio and Michael McCaffrey. This bill seeks to expand restriction currently in place on non-OEM collision repair body parts in first-party claims to any collision damaged parts.

In May, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee, voted for an amended OEM parts bill, extending the customer-consent requirement from 30 months to the first 48 months of vehicle life.

The Rhode Island House Bill 8013 was introduced March 29. House Bill 8013 amends that when an insurance company intends to specify the use of aftermarket parts, it will notify the vehicle owner in writing and body shops shall not use aftermarket parts in repairs without the owner’s written consent. For vehicles less than 48 months beyond the date of manufacture, no insurance company may require the use of aftermarket parts when negotiating repairs with the repairer.

 

Side A: OEM Parts

Schulenburg says he thinks manufacturers recommend original parts because they designed and built those parts for optimal fit, function, safety, and system-wide integrity.

OEM vehicles are also crash-tested for governmental requirements and to establish safety ratings, Schulenburg says. The crash tests can show how the parts work together in the vehicle as a system, and while some aftermarket parts are individually tested, there is not a way to discover how they work as a whole.

Some OEMs have recently introduced position statements that detail their position on the use of aftermarket parts. For example, GM released the position that states, “General Motors does not approve the use of aftermarket, reconditioned or salvage bumpers/fascias on GM vehicles equipped with ADAS.”

GM has recently updated a position statement on the use of aftermarket, reconditioned or salvage bumpers and fascias on vehicles equipped with ADAS.

Toyota also recently introduced Toyota Safety Sense on the 2018 Tundra and Tacoma, Schulenburg says. Toyota has recommended that dealers not modify the systems on these vehicles in any manner that will affect the systems. Their line-up of vehicles offer a bundle of active safety features, which utilize a calibrated camera and millimeter wave radar.

“Price is obviously a driver for many insurance companies, and to be honest, even repairer’s margins are often better on aftermarket parts,” he says. “But there are ever-present liability considerations in parts selection and what we still find is that most shops would prefer to use OEM parts dues to fit, availability, confidence in the part and limiting their own liability.”

 

Side B: Aftermarket Parts

Salamy wrote an opinion piece in the Providence Journal,  in which he directly addressed the consumer as he endorsed alternative repair parts.

Salamy, who did not respond to FenderBender when asked for a comment, said in the editorial  that the Senate Bill 2679 and the House Bill 8013 would “take away [the consumer’s] choice about how to repair [his or her] vehicle.”

“Competition drives down prices and gives consumers more options to choose from,” he writes. “It puts consumers in the driver seat.”

According to Salamy, alternative parts help to keep collision repair costs down and help to reduce insurance premiums.

“There’s a growing, hidden monopoly forming in the auto parts industry and most people are unaware that it will directly affect their ability to repair their cars after an accident,” he writes. “If left unchecked, this burgeoning monopoly will drastically impact how much money Rhode Island consumers will have to pay...to get their cars repaired to pre-accident conditions.”

On average, Salamy claims, alternative parts are 25 to 50 percent less expensive than the car company parts. He wrote that many of these parts are certified by either the National Sanitation Foundation or Certified Automotive Parts Association.  

 

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