Owners’ manual language underscores need for better OEM/independent aftermarket relations; Organizations are doing their part; Are you?

Automakers are recognizing the need to support the independent aftermarket, given the inability of their own dealer networks to handle aftermarket demands as cars are made better and consumers are holding onto them longer. But there’s still a long way to go.

Last week, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and three other aftermarket groups (the Automotive Oil Change Association, the Tire Industry Association and the Service Station Dealer of America and Allied Trades) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claiming the MINI Cooper’s owner’s manual violates federal warranty law. The complaint claims the manual requires that only MINI dealers are to perform oil changes as a condition of warranty. “The clear purpose of BMW’s wording is to make consumers believe that using MINI Cooper dealers is their only option and that failure to use only them will merit penalty,” the letter states.

This is one of several such actions the aftermarket groups have taken since the fall of 2011. The groups complained that Honda and Acura attempted to mislead consumers as to the quality of non-original equipment replacement parts and the possibility that use of these parts could void their new car warranties. Letters were also sent about similar statements from Mazda and Kia.

AAIA and its aftermarket allies are working aggressively on these issues. Getting action from FTC takes a lot of time and effort. There is a lot at stake here for the independent aftermarket.

Many automakers have recognized the need for better working relations with the independent aftermarket as vehicles are lasting longer. Several OEMs have become active in the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), which is dedicated to improving technician education and strengthening the service readiness of independent shops.

Subaru, Toyota, General Motors and Nissan recently participated in the NASTF Spring Vision meeting, where they presented service readiness needs and engaged in a dialogue with aftermarket specialists and discussed solutions for closing the service-readiness gap among independent shops.

But automakers also face pressure from their dealers to optimize aftermarket revenue opportunities.

Forums such as the NASTF general meetings (like the one held during the Vision conference) play an important role in educating automakers about the independent aftermarket’s needs. They also provide a communications venue whereby OEMs and aftermarket companies can better work together.

As evidenced by the recent OEM owners’ manual language, a lot needs to be worked out. Thankfully, aftermarket organizations are doing their part.

Aftermarket organizations play an important role in providing education and training for members, in addition to lobbying, market research and working to improve relations with OEMs.

Independent shops should recognize the important work these organizations do in looking out for their interests. All shops can do their part by contributing their fair share to these organizations. There is a lot at stake.