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Transitioning to OEM Parts

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OEM versus aftermarket. 


It’s a decision every body shop needs to make when deciding where to get their parts. Aftermarket parts are cheaper and easier to get covered by insurance companies, sure, but OEM parts ensure safety and quality and assure the correct vehicle fit.


To Mark Olson, founder of Vehicle Collision Experts, a consulting and training company, OEM parts are the clearcut best option because of their safety. Period.


Aftermarket parts don’t offer the same assurances that OEM parts can, he says. Without being 100 percent confident in the part, a shop can’t guarantee it’s safe. 


“We have to do what’s right for the consumer,” Olson says. “Anybody who puts someone in harm or jeopardy should get out of the business. You’re trading finances for someone’s life.”


So, how can shops that currently use aftermarket parts make the switch to OEM parts? FenderBender spoke with Olson to find out. 


The Backstory


Olson admits he’s used aftermarket parts a fair amount over his 36 years in the industry. He’s spent time as a technician, shop owner, insurance adjuster and I-CAR instructor along with his work with Veco Experts, and has dealt with a lot of aftermarket parts. Most of the time, the parts work fine. 


But to Olson, “most of the time” isn’t adequate. He wants to be able to assure the customer that the part will work 100 percent of the time, a reality that just doesn’t exist with aftermarket parts. So, he advises, in almost every scenario, that shops ditch the aftermarket for OEM parts. 


The Problem


Making the shift to OEM parts isn’t difficult logistically, Olson says. It often just requires a shift in where a shop buys its parts. For example, instead of LKQ, his shop now goes directly through dealerships, whether it’s Toyota, Ford, or another manufacturer the vehicle may need.


The problem with making the shift rests in the culture, both internally within the company and externally with customers and insurance providers. That’s where the change becomes difficult, Olson says. 


The Solution


The reason why so many shops prioritize OEM parts over aftermarket options is safety. Yes, an aftermarket fender may look slightly different than the OEM version, but that’s not the point. With modern vehicles increasingly deploying ADAS features, vehicles are becoming their own ecosystem. Each part is engineered together. By not using the OEM part, a shop is taking a risk in disrupting an ecosystem, and you won’t know if that is the case until another accident occurs, which could be the difference of life and death, Olson says.


To have a successful transition from aftermarket to OEM parts, Olson says it starts with the mindset. The shop needs to have safety as the top priority. Everyone needs to be on board with “fixing it right” and it needs to be consistent throughout all shop communication, whether that’s with customers, vendors, insurers, or OEMs. If a shop makes the decision to switch to OEM parts, stick to it, Olson says. Commit to not using aftermarket parts for any job in the future.


The struggle then often rests on the relationship between the shop and insurer. Especially if a shop has used aftermarket parts in the past, insurers are likely to say that they’ll only pay for the price of the cheaper aftermarket part. This will force the shop to have a conversation with the customer, because they are the ones that will have to pay the difference in price between the OEM and aftermarket parts.


“It’s as simple as, ‘if you don’t want it fixed right, go somewhere else and use an aftermarket part. We’re committed to safety, and the safest option is the OEM part,’” Olson says. “If you have that conversation with customers, they get it and they will want it.”


Too many shops don’t want to have that conversation with customers, Olson says. But without it, a switch can’t happen. It’s also a conversation that needs to be had with insurers. The carriers may push back and argue they will only cover the cost of an aftermarket part. However, the difference in prices between OEM and aftermarket parts are often so minimal that shops can choose to either cover that difference or charge the customer, Olson says. In Olson’s experience, customers are more than happy to pay that small extra cost to ensure safety. 


The Aftermath


The transition might be bumpy at first. The long-term relationships that the shop has with customers and insurers will need to be adjusted. The slight price jump could push customers away and insurers to balk at whether they’ll cover it. 

“You have to be prepared to take a dip in sales because insurers may not refer you,” Olson says. “But you have to transfer your company to fixing it right.”

That’s exactly it. The short-term hit of sales will bounce back once customers and insurers realize the shop’s new position. And the ability to ensure customer safety and a shop free of liability is paramount, Olson says. 


The Takeaway


Shifting from aftermarket parts to OEM parts is relatively easy in practice. The difficult battle is changing the shop’s culture both internally and externally. Without that, a shop won’t be financially successful. 

OEM parts are proven to be safer and more reliable. It shifts liability from faulty parts away from shops and onto the OEMs and it ensures customers’ vehicles become whole again. 

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