Another Shop Owner’s Perspective On Parts Quality

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From time to time we have a client who asks if we can install cheaper parts to lower the price of repair. Of course, we are sympathetic to such requests and, depending on the repair, we may oblige them. However, our normal parts sources are from quality suppliers and we typically install their best product lines. I can recall my father (our founder) quoting Benjamin Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” . This philosophy has guided our company since 1969 when Dennis first opened its doors and will continue to do so into the future. This is also why we are able to offer the finest warranty you will find, our 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty plan. Most clients who ask about cheaper parts opt to install the parts we first recommended after learning of the difference in quality and warranty.

The article below was recently published in Motor Age magazine and was written by Mitch Schneider, a very sharp repair shop owner and frequent contributor to the magazine. It caught my eye as it reflects an excellent perspective on parts quality that I thought would be nice to share. Here it is pasted below with permission of one of the editors.

“I had what can only be described as one of the most uncomfortable experiences
I’ve ever had just the other day — uncomfortable, but unfortunately, not
altogether that unusual. It is something I fear is indicative of a far more
dangerous problem than anyone is willing to address or even admit.

It started with a more or less normal visit from one of our outside salesman
accompanied by a manufacturer’s rep. It was normal in the sense that they
appeared unannounced and without an appointment. I looked up and there they
were; ready to talk about a new line this particular vendor had taken on.

It was an important call. We need to know what’s available and when; how deep the
inventory will be, especially at first; and, how the line will be priced. They
had my attention because the new line is from an old brand with a rich history
of quality and innovation. It is a brand I have purchased before and was
actually looking forward to purchasing again, pending more information, of
course. And, that’s when things moved one step closer to the bizarre.

Before I could even broach the subject of country of origin, quality, acquisition
cost, depth of coverage, fill rate, availability or even warranty, the
manufacturer’s rep immediately moved the conversation to a discussion of the
company’s second line: their “price line.”

I listened for a bit, not because I was interested. I listened because I was
fascinated — fascinated the discussion could take such a strange and dangerous
turn so quickly, fascinated that it could move in that direction without any
resistance to a meaningful discussion of what accepting the quality line would

After a minute or two I just couldn’t listen any longer. I wasn’t interested in the
price line. I never have been. I’m interested in quality parts from quality
companies that have enough pride in what they build to guarantee their products
with the same confidence and enthusiasm they want me to convey across the
service counter to my clients and customers. So, I challenged him to sell me on
the good stuff — to tell me why I should choose his brand before and above
another rather than drop the discussion to the lowest common denominator:
price. And, believe it or not, he did, and, he did it quite well. But, not
before he let me know that more than 80 percent of his calls end up in that
dark and scary basement with nothing else to talk about but price, so that was
just naturally where he felt the conversation should start.

I’d be lying if I told you his explanation was anything less than disturbing. I
don’t want to believe that’s where we are headed. I don’t want to believe we
are willing to march our industry down that road. We need someone to believe in
quality, in the rich history and the enduring legacy of 100-year-old brands. We
need someone to tell that story with passion and enthusiasm. We need someone to
rekindle that fire.

If someone doesn’t pick up that gauntlet, if someone does not accept the
challenge, all we will have left is price. And quite frankly, there are plenty
of off-shore companies who are far better at building junk and selling it for
less than you are!

So, if you are a manufacturer’s representative, the marketing manager or vice
president of sales of one of the many companies we in the repair community have
come to trust over the past 100 years, don’t roll over quite so quickly. Don’t
drop to the second line before you’ve at least tried to talk up the first.

I know it’s easier. I know there is less resistance. But, this is perhaps the
prime example of the easy way not being the best way. In fact, I can almost
promise you the only way this ‘easy way’ will work for you is if you are
looking for the easy way out — the easy way out of business and the easy way
out of the aftermarket.”