Gearing up for the future

The right to repair has become the mantra for constitutional rights for motorists around the world. aBr brings our readers a series of interviews with role players in the automotive aftermarket, with the intention to shed some light on this intriguing subject. First up to the plate is Richard Pinard, managing director of TopClass Automotive. TopClass Automotive is a supplier of an extensive range of automotive products, focusing on reputable brands, including SKF, FTE, Timken, Permatex and DJ Parts.

aBr: What do you see as the role of TopClass Automotive in the automotive aftermarket?
RP: We see ourselves as the parts supplier of the future. The sourcing of product and route to market today is different to what it was five years ago, and most probably in five years’ time it will be different to what it is today. Market dynamics are changing, and the parts supplier of the future will be someone who changes with the times. The customer is changing, and is more knowledgeable, with internet access, and a variety of options in sourcing his or her daily needs. This dynamic is starting to impact the automotive aftermarket, and we as suppliers will need to have smarter and faster processes to service this new age customer.

aBr: What is the “value add” that you offer the market, that stands out from OES and IAM offerings?
RP: TopClass Automotive brings to the table knowledge, product development, catalogue development, technical training via the internet, personal service, and most importantly, a passion for our products and a passion for our business.

aBr: Are the products that you offer on a par with “genuine” parts?
RP: Most definitely so. Tier One suppliers play an important role in the development of parts for new vehicle models, and they set minimum specifications for these parts, in conjunction with the OEMs. And in many cases, these suppliers then enhance these specifications, and offer these enhanced products to the aftermarket as premium customised parts.

aBr: When it comes to range, do you cherry pick?
RP: Our policy is to cover an extensive range on all the products that we sell. We analyse the market, and if there is a demand for a part, we carry it. And I am proud to say that this applies to the full car parc. We carry parts for older cars as well, and even if the vehicle is twenty years old, the part will be of the same quality as that of our parts for the latest models. This is not always the case with other suppliers, some who have a policy of sourcing cheaper parts for older vehicles.

aBr: If one compares prices, where do you sit in the “cost” chain?
RP: Our prices are competitive. I invite you to do the price comparison yourself.

aBr: The market appears to be saturated with offerings from many OEMs, local manufacturers, local distributors, and local importers, all offering a dizzying array of brands – is there space for all of these players?
RP: No. I have no problems with the suppliers of quality parts and reputable brands. There is definitely space for all of them. But there is a lot of sub-standard product out there, where quality is sacrificed on the altar of cost cutting. The selling and fitting of these parts have serious safety and roadworthy implications, and is unconscionable. There is also the issue of counterfeit product. I know of many cases in this regard. Bearings are a favourite target for counterfeiters and I know of a specific case where a significant percentage of a certain type of bearing is being sold as a counterfeit of a proprietary brand. All I have to say to the people sourcing and supplying these products is “how do you sleep at night?”

aBr: And finally, you have a good name in the market – what do you attribute this to?
RP: It is about giving people a fair deal, over an extended period of time. It takes years to build up a reputation, and seconds to destroy it. I am not prepared to take any chances when it comes to product quality - this philosophy has stood me in good stead.