Aftermarket Parts Certification
"While OE parts are the standard, the ability to manufacture parts to the highest quality is key."
Lastly, certified aftermarket parts present a third possible option for quality repairs. These parts should have a higher likelihood of resembling OE parts, with the price advantage of aftermarket parts. So how are certified aftermarket parts different from all other aftermarket parts? And why does this difference matter to you or your customers?
“Certified aftermarket parts including structural parts such as bumpers, reinforcement bars, energy absorbers, brackets and step bumpers are important because they contribute to the collision management system of a vehicle,” says Mike O’Neal, president, Diamond Standard Parts LLC. “A vehicle should be returned to pre-accident condition and safety.”
While OE parts are the standard, the ability to manufacture parts to the highest quality is key. Diamond Standard is one of many key aftermarket parts companies seeking to achieve the quality standards in the parts manufacturing process. With four facilities – two in the United States and two offshore, Diamond Standard began several years ago looking for ways to manufacture aftermarket parts with the highest standards in mind according to O’Neal.
O’Neal explained, “Even before the certification from NSF that we have received, Diamond Standard tested and retested our parts to make sure the quality is as high as we say it is.” He continued by explaining that Diamond Standard manufactures parts under one company name and as one brand of parts only. “We do not cater to the low end of replacement parts, or to overseas parts markets.”
So where does certification come from, and how should your collision shop go about acquiring certified aftermarket parts? Aftermarket parts certification can come from more than one source. First, the Certified Aftermarket Parts Association (CAPA) is one source of certification for aftermarket repair parts. CAPA has been providing certified aftermarket parts to the industry and consumers for 25 years. According to Jack Gillis, CAPA executive director, “CAPA oversees a testing and inspection program for metals, plastics, lighting, foam and bumper parts. We certify not only the quality of automotive replacement parts used for collision repairs but also the manufacturers’ quality systems and facility as well.” He continued, “CAPA ensures that these parts meet quality standards for fit, materials, corrosion resistance, and most of all safety.
“The CAPA program provides consumers, auto body shops, parts distributors and insurance adjusters with an objective method for evaluating the quality of certified parts and their functional equivalency to parts manufactured by automotive companies,” said Gillis. CAPA Certified parts can be identified by the distinct CAPA yellow and blue seal, which is attached to certified parts. Each CAPA seal has a unique number and a tear-off label, which can be affixed to the repair order and used to verify the use of a CAPA Certified part to the customer or the insurance company involved with the repair. Gillis explained, “Once a CAPA seal has been attached to the surface of a certified part, it will self-destruct when removed. This ensures that a CAPA seal cannot be transferred from a certified part to a non-certified part.”
"Using collision repair parts that are certified will help ensure the
good experience of your customers, can potentially improve the reputation of your repair center as one that does quality work, and can have dramatic safety results for the vehicle you repair."
A second organization for certification of automotive aftermarket parts is NSF International, which tests all types of products for consumption by consumers. NSF certifies aftermarket parts as well as aftermarket parts distributors. Robert Frayer, director of engineering and director of automotive parts certification, explained the testing that NSF International completes.
“Collision repair shops are challenged in their ability to make high-quality repairs using aftermarket parts by their inability to identify a premium part,” said Frayer. “Working together with manufacturers, automotive aftermarket trade associations, distributors and other industry experts, NSF applied its considerable expertise in automotive quality systems, testing, third-party certification and standards development to create a certification program that can be used to identify parts that are equivalent in form, fit and function to the original equipment service (OES) parts.”
NSF verifies the quality and the performance of automotive aftermarket parts through facility audits and parts testing. Aftermarket parts are compared directly to OES parts during the certification process, which includes on-site inspections, in-plant quality assurance requirements and rigorous parts testing. According to Frayer, NSF has offered the Automotive Collision Replacement Parts Certification Program since February 2010. This program certifies bumper component systems. In April 2011, NSF began offering certification of plastic parts, sheet metal parts and lamps.
“NSF will continue to build on this certification offering to meet the needs of the market,” says Frayer. “NSF-certified parts allow for a high-quality repair at a price substantially less than that of an OES part. As the availability of NSF-certified parts grows, so will their usage and the demand for more NSF-certified parts.”
Once you have decided to offer certified aftermarket parts to your customers as part of the repair, how do you know your parts distributor will assist you with this goal? Conventional wisdom states that the easiest way to have a distributor who provides you with certified parts is to do business with a certified distributor. NSF, one of the companies that certifies aftermarket parts, has begun to certify distributors.
LKQ Corporation achieved the goal of being a certified distributor of aftermarket parts last month. In fact, LKQ Corporation is the first distributor certified by NSF. According to Terry Fortner, vice president of industry relations and market development for LKQ, “The certification [by NSF] shows our commitment to continuous quality improvement.” Fortner explained that to achieve the certification, LKQ had to go through stringent quality control checks. “Although we were already doing many of the things required for certification, we added some quality control checks to the distribution process. The certification should make our company better, and show us areas in which we can improve,” says Fortner.
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To learn more about the aftermarket parts companies and certifying bodies mentioned in this article, please visit their websites:
LKQ is the nation’s largest distributor of automotive aftermarket parts, and has more than 300 distributor locations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Fortner explained why the distributor certification is important to the collision industry. “Ultimately, the NSF certification should indicate to collision owners that LKQ Corporation is committed to a seamless experience for the collision repair industry with on-time deliveries and increasing quality.”
According to Geoff Crane, business development manager, Diamond Standard, “Five states have regulations speaking to the certified quality of automotive aftermarket parts. These states look largely to CAPA and independent lab testing for their certification requirements and have based their laws around those standards. The states of Oregon, New York, Iowa, Hawaii and New Jersey all have state regulations requiring the use of aftermarket parts that are equivalent to the OE parts they replace for collision repairs.” If your business is in one of those states you should familiarize yourself with the regulations.
We all know how substandard parts can quickly ruin the experience a customer has with a collision repair center. But at greater risk than your shop’s reputation are the lives of the customers whose vehicles you repair. Using collision repair parts that are certified should help ensure the good experience of your customers, can potentially improve the reputation of your repair center as one that does quality work, and could have dramatic safety results for the vehicle you repair.
|Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer based in McDonough, Ga. She can be reached at mercerfreelancing @gmail.com.|