What is a genuine part?

I have put the word “revolutionary” in quotation marks because the industry is not used to the cart going before the horse. There has always been a gulf between OEM franchised dealers and the automotive aftermarket, based on the line put forward by OEMs that genuine parts are only those parts in the OEM branded box, and that anything else is non-genuine, or even that much abused term, horror of horrors, pirate parts.

Anyone who has been in the automotive aftermarket industry for any length of time would of course laugh at this, because it is well known that OEMs are effectively assemblers, and that practically all the parts which go into a vehicle, particularly for mass produced cars, are supplied by the very component manufacturers who are accused of being pirate part purveyors. And in the modern information age, this fact is now being disseminated via the myriad digital communication channels. So the towel has been thrown into the ring, with great vigour, and the Bosch scenario in China will soon be replicated across the world.

My mind goes back to the 1970’s when OEMs had a significant percentage of “captive” parts, where mark-ups were dictated not by market forces, but by government legislation. And when this legislation fell away, and the competitive environment started to change, OEMs fought back by strongly defending their proprietary rights, with particular emphasis on part numbers.

But now, the whole thing has been turned upside down, and there are even cases where aftermarket companies are complaining that OEM’s are now using their part numbers! The winds of change are indeed blowing, and this has long been foreseen by industry stalwarts such as Giel Steyn, who assisted aBr with a series of article on this very subject in 2009.These articles were so prescient, that we reprinted these in 2011 and 2013,and the time may just be ripe to revisit these articles one more time, so that we can participate in the subject’s curtain call.

Giel Steyn bemoaned the fact that many in our industry, and many in positions of authority and influence, were not up to date with trends and terminology, and he went to great lengths to elucidate and educate on the concepts of technology, quality, safety and value for money, and very importantly, he gave definitive answers on the meaning of original, genuine, counterfeit, substandard, inferior and pirate parts. We will reprise Giel’s thoughts in the coming months, with a few variations on the theme, but as an appetiser, we will once again refer to Jim Wade’s article in the August 2005 edition of qw, whereby he bemoans the use of words that are bandied about by quality professionals when discussing quality.

Phrases such as “exceeding customer satisfaction”, “fit for purpose”, “conforming to requirements”, “worldclass”, “zero defects”, “right first time, every time” all sound wonderful, but they set Jim’s teeth on edge, because they are all in effect meaningless.

As Jim Wade says, in any organisation, at any one time, quality is precisely defined by the organisation’s current measurable objectives. And this is exactly what is now currently happening in today’s automotive aftermarket, with the OEM’s playing catch up with the previously demonised “pirates”. To end this particular article (and don’t worry, we are going to give you much more in the future), let us use Giel Steyn’s favourite quote: “It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises – but only performance is reality.”