What’s in a Name?

| December 12, 2008

OEM dealers and distributors who need parts for high-demand or discontinued equipment often have no choice but to turn to non-OEM manufacturers, DeFeo says.

Many dealerships offer less expensive non-OEM parts as options, but that choice can have unforeseen consequences, Williams says. “If all you want is my cheapest price, I’m not going to be able to offer you the highest level of service.”

As manufacturing technology continues to improve, reverse-engineered or copycat products will become more common, Richards says. “The issue is still one of quality and value. The loss of revenue from a non-working vehicle is far greater than the cost savings on a copycat product.”

Knockoff mechanical parts are a growing problem, says Mahrt, who notes that Caterpillar, like other OEMs, has seen lots of former employees go to work for rival companies.

“Caterpillar clearly has an edge on electronic parts – for now, anyway,” Mahrt says. “We’re lulling ourselves to sleep if we think the competition will never have that capability, but they don’t have it now. We’re the big dog on the block, so we’ve got a big target on our back. It’s a perverse sort of compliment.”

READ THE WARRANTY. In almost every instance, using unauthorized parts voids warranties. Even if the warranty has expired, using unauthorized parts poses risks to your business, says Nick Richards of GM Powertrain. “Warranty use is only the beginning of the life cycle of the vehicle.”

CHECK ASSOCIATES AND CREDENTIALS. “Buy through a reputable, nationally known or nationally identified truck parts distributor,” says Tim Kraus of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. Retail chains such as Fleetpride or Truckpro, any manufacturer affiliated with the Council of Fleet Specialists, any distributor in the HDA Parts Network – all pledge replacement parts that meet OEM specifications, whether those parts have OEM brands or not, Kraus says.

FOLLOW THE OEM. Even if you’re not buying the part from the OEM, you have the option of sticking with parts makers that supply the OEMs. “Manufacturers don’t say, ‘OK, we’re done making the OEM parts, now it’s time to dial down on our quality for the aftermarket.’ It’s the same part,” says Mark Williams of the Technology and Maintenance Council.

ASK ABOUT REMANS. If the price of a new OEM part is giving you sticker shock, ask the OEM about the price of its remanufactured version, says Don Mahrt of Caterpillar. “They typically cost 40 percent less than new, but they’re just as good as new,” and they offer all the benefits of staying within the OEM system, he says.

STAY COOL IN AN EMERGENCY. Call the parts dealer you know and trust, no matter where you’re broken down, Kraus says. That dealer can recommend someone just as trustworthy in your vicinity. And don’t lower your standards just because your load is sitting still. The goal should not be finding cut-rate parts or cutting downtime by a few hours, but “a quality repair job at a fair price,” Kraus says.

ONE SIZE DOESN’T ALWAYS FIT ALL. If you opt for generic equipment unsuited to your application, don’t complain when it fails, Williams says.

EXPECT TO GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If you’re buying a part with an unfamiliar brand at a cheap price, don’t be surprised if it has a short life.

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