If you talk to just about every automotive repair shop and every mechanic, you'll find they share the same opinion that cheaper, offshore parts have taken over our market, and fail more regularly than OEM parts. Plus, in too many cases, these products simply don't perform as required, right out of the box.

 At one time, not that long ago, our only worry about offshore parts infiltrating our industry was looking out for counterfeit parts, showing up in look-alike packaging, trying to fool us into thinking that these were OEM parts. Well, we don't have to concern ourselves with that too much anymore, because these manufacturers have since taken their place beside all the other brands we recognize and trust.

It's gotten so bad that it has become a rare occurrence, even with OEM parts, to see "Made In Canada" or "Made in the U.S.A." label on a part. 

Okay, while I tend to agree with the comment that "cheap, offshore parts are hurting our business", I do believe this is an oversimplification of the problem, and to think that applying the simple solution of not allowing offshore parts into our market can never happen.

That would be economic suicide for so many reasons.

So, what can we do?

Is it too late to be able to do anything about it?

It's never too late. It just means we have to do things a little differently.

In the past, when we had defective parts, we did two things; first, we'd complain to our jobber, where they would apologize and get us a replacement, in hopes that it was a one-off issue. Next, especially if the replaced part had the same issue, we would source a different manufacturer to get the job done. Then we would document the problem and would present the issue to the manufacturer representative during their next shop visit, which was fairly regular.

Almost always, the problem was acted on and we got a report on what happened to cause the defect because they appreciated our business and wanted to keep us as valued customers. We definitely expected and appreciated that. We were loyal customers.

So, what's happening today?

We still complain to our jobber and they still replace the part or refund us.........and that's about it.

Since there are no field reps doing regular visits to our shops, we have absolutely no idea if these issues are getting back to the manufacturer so they can be remedied, or even if the manufacturers are concerned enough to do anything about it.

Personally, I don't really care where the part was manufactured or assembled as long as it fits and performs as designed. The brand manufacturer is still ultimately responsible for that. 

 I wonder if they realize that we, on the front line of this industry, really want to support our traditional North American brands. That is, as long as we get the support that we're paying for. Brand loyalty, as is trust, is earned and if their products continue to fail, we have no choice other than to change brands and they will end up losing their market share. Of course,  if that happens (if it already hasn't), they will also be on the bandwagon complaining; "It was the fault of offshore parts taking over the market".

If we want to retain our traditional North American businesses, we have to find a way to get back to the connection we had with them not just to be able to report on poor quality and workmanship of individual items but to also have access to the resources and product training we once took for granted. 

Comments, surveys, and ratings on their individual sites are not solutions. We need something better. 

Demanding that they add more field reps and visit the shops regularly is also not going to happen. That ship has sailed. And most really couldn't afford it anyway.

For those of you, who are in Western Canada, there's ASBN, the Automotive Service Business Network, whose main goal is to be a platform where all facets of our industry, in this market area, can engage in issues, share ideas and resources as well as do business.

We're bringing back that personal connection we once had with our product makers.

For those of you outside this area, get on your favorite forums and create groups of businesses within your market regions and then invite your suppliers to be part of the group. I think you'll find out how productive and rewarding it can be.

Let's get back to talking and fixing our parts problems and not just complaining about it.