AFTERMARKET INDUSTRY DRIVING FORWARD OE INNOVATION

In this special feature, the AAAA’s 4WD Industry Council takes a look at how the aftermarket industry plays an important role in the supply of OE products

It is no secret that there are some negative perceptions abounding in the marketplace about 4WD modifications, particularly within regulatory bodies.
“The myths around ‘genuine’ accessories and their superiority to ‘aftermarket’ accessories is a big part of this – so many consumers and rule makers fail to realise that often, these products are made by the same companies that make the aftermarket product and sometimes even in the same factory using the same facilities,” explained Australian 4WD Industry Council Convenor, Nigel Bishop.
“The truth at the end of the day is that most of the accessories developed for the OEM 4WD market in Australia are indeed produced by aftermarket companies under license, and we believe it is important that we shed some light on this for the benefit of consumers and aftermarket members.”
To further explore this issue, the 4WD Industry Council has taken the discussion up with a number of key players in this space, asking for them to explain how they – as aftermarket members – work with OEs and what steps they believe need to be taken to advance the industry’s stature in the OE space.
National Corporate Development Manager for aftermarket distributor National Tyre and Wheel (NTAW), Andrew James, says NTAW’s brand Cooper Tyres is a great example of an aftermarket company supplying for OE in a way that the public can see.
“We supply Cooper Zeon LTZ Pro Tires as original equipment on the HSV Colorado SportsCat pick-up truck,” Andrew explained.
“By working closely with Cooper engineers, HSV engineers provided performance requirements that Cooper were able to not only meet, but exceed. And in fact, many of the enhancements required were in line with the constant improvements Cooper was already developing.
“The brand has a strong and growing OE business in international markets and is leveraging that expertise and experience to target select global OEs. While Cooper does not intend for global OE to become its core business and it will continue to predominantly be a replacement tyre company, it is excited about securing OE fitments, such as recent partnerships with Volkswagen on the T-Roc mini SUV for Europe.
“When developing a new product, the focus remains on what the consumer will require of the product and ensuring that is delivered. Cooper for example has R & D technical centres in the US, in Europe and Asia as well as a test track in the US. Developing leading tyre products does take additional investment whether it is for the aftermarket or OE. Further, the OE business tends to drive innovation and technology, and that is also applicable in the aftermarket.
“It is our belief that the arrangement for Cooper Tyres with OE manufacturers like HSV is important in that it shows consumers a collaborative commitment to performance, latest technology and building tyres which are fit for purpose. The HSV brand positioning provides exposure for the Cooper brand and is an ideal fit to showcase premium Cooper products.”
For Andrew, the differences between OE and aftermarket offer some key business opportunities too.
“For Cooper, having a consumer achieve a positive experience with a Cooper OE tyre means that when the time comes to replace the tyres there is the possibility of a first replacement sales opportunity for Cooper possibly with the same OE tyre or even an upgrade to a different product based on the consumers’ needs,” Andrew said.
“A vehicle is built around a genuine set of accessories and designed based on the manufacturer’s idea of what the purpose is for that vehicle. While that caters for a large proportion of consumers, at the same time there are consumers who have a varied purpose for the vehicle and this is where aftermarket accessories can enhance the use of the vehicle for a consumer for their individual purpose. In many cases, an aftermarket product can enhance the consumer’s desired performance.
“At the end of the day, both OE and aftermarket products continue to challenge technology and boundaries which exist to deliver on consumer expectations. Both exist for a purpose and both are developed for a varied number of parameters. In a global market with an abundance of choice, consumers are bombarded with sometimes conflicting information about what is better: OE or Aftermarket. Ultimately, I believe, the answer comes down to the question of will the product exceed the consumer’s expectations.”
Ray Smith Roberts, chairman of the Australian 4WD Industry Council and Chief Executive Officer of East Coast Bullbars, explained one aspect he feels has contributed to the fear of aftermarket products.
“A lot of the time the concern around aftermarket parts comes from government and fleet operators looking in simple terms at making sure they are ‘covered’ as far as the safety of their vehicles and their liability, so when they don’t know the consequence or the alternative, the easiest thing to do is to say a product has to be OE to meet policies,” Ray said.
“In these cases a lot of them are deferring to having a requisite ANCAP 5 safety rating to shift the responsibility for the vehicle safety away from themselves. The issue with that is that is that it is not clear if modifying or putting aftermarket accessories on a vehicle adversely impacts the ANCAP rating, so ANCAP in the past said it was up to the OEM and immediately they said the only way to stay ANCAP 5 rated was to use genuine accessories and that therefore drove a lot of policy and thinking around that.

“Earlier this year we finally reached a point where ANCAP put out a revised policy and information saying that it can’t test vehicles once they have had accessories fitted so it cannot say one way or another as to what impact that may have as it is outside of their testing regime.
“At least this says that ‘we are not saying you can’t, we are not saying you can’ and it puts more of a neutral position in place. It doesn’t change the landscape necessarily but in terms of changing the thinking at least it makes sure there is no definitive rule against being able to do it, which is a positive start.
“Following this, we are working really hard on trying to get the invisible, visible, in the world of myths around genuine v aftermarket, and make it known that there are not two different channels in the world – one for OE and one for aftermarket.
“These products come from the same type of thinking, the same types of companies, sometimes they even have the same DNA. It isn’t magic, at the end of the day there is plenty of aftermarket product that is fit for purpose or more fit for purpose than OEM product and still allows ongoing vehicle compliance while not interfering with inbuilt safety systems. The thing is, how do we spell that out? We have to be careful.
“Take bullbars for example. In the OEM space we service the light trucking industry pretty heavily. If you buy an Isuzu branded bulbar or a Hino branded bulbar, they are each manufactured in an ECB factory with near identical DNA and standards to that of an aftermarket product. There is almost no difference yet those are sold as genuine OE product by the OEM at the time of sale. At the end of the day, the difference between aftermarket and OE products comes down to a difference in priorities.
“In the aftermarket we are designing to the following principals – for us at ECB fit for purpose is absolutely the first priority, the next is level of engineering and compliance, then aesthetics and finally price. For most OEMs, the number one priority is compliance and engineering and the second is price, ahead of aesthetics and then fit for purpose.
“In all of my experience with OEMs over the years I have found that this is generally the case when you are developing protection type accessories for any OEM and for the aftermarket. The variance in how you approach the development of a product is largely driven by the problem you are trying to solve and that is shaped by the priorities you work under. However the fact is that the same inputs go into solving those problems by the same types of people with the same types of products whether they are developing an OE or aftermarket product.
“It is the same products, out of the same engineering, out of the same supply channels, going to the same customers in the end, just via different channels. We need to try and get that message across clearly, that there isn’t some magical mystery or some vast variance between the reputable aftermarket and genuine accessories or genuine parts channels.”

For Powerdown and RAW 4×4 General Manager Mat Gatgens, the myths around the quality of aftermarket products and the damage done by suspect companies is a real concern.
“Powerdown and RAW 4×4 design, develop and manufacture shock absorbers for the commercial vehicle market under their own branding as well as private OE labels. Currently there are six types of commercial vehicles in the marketplace which are equipped with our product from our Australian production line,” Mat explained.
“To supply these products, we have to meet ISO Quality Assurance and Design Validation Plan (DVP) requirements as well as Quality Standard benchmarks. It is also a must for us to have quality R and D facilities, customer support and local back-up of our products. For customers this means they get a consistent high-quality product that has been designed and manufactured to perform in Australian conditions.
“When it comes down to it, most OE products are designed for the larger markets of the world such as North America, Asia and Europe and notably, at a specific price point to keep the cost of the vehicle down. Reputable aftermarket brands are designed to meet and exceed the OE standards in terms of quality and performance, but where they differ is that they are designed to perform in Australia’s unique climatic and road conditions.
“The perception that OE products are superior is a complete myth. In certain cases both the OE and aftermarket products can come out of the same factory. Further, reputable aftermarket suppliers design quality into their products to outlast and outperform the OE offering and usually this is the way aftermarket parts find their way into the market where the customer is looking for a better alternative.
“The big issue for the industry is copied or counterfeit parts that find their way into the market. These types of products are not manufactured to any standard, no testing is carried out and inferior materials are used. In short, they give the aftermarket a bad name and it is unfortunate that reputable companies are tarnished by these types of parts being sold via the internet and other channels.
“The aftermarket is all about offering the customer choice and alternatives for their vehicle, whether this is performance or price competitiveness. The aftermarket industry drives innovation in design, materials used and production processes as our products must offer a perceived advantage to the end user.
“With the majority of Australian aftermarket companies have been operating for over 20 years or more, to be in business for this long they must be meeting a need in the market that their OE counterparts are not.”

For more from the Australian 4WD Industry Council, please visit www.4wdcouncil.com.au