Automotive aftermarket guidelines

Automotive aftermarket guidelines

While consumers have welcomed these guidelines, the automotive industry has slammed them, citing various concerns from safety to the impact on the economy

The recently published Guidelines for Competition in the South African Automotive Aftermarket Industry have been welcomed by consumers who believe that motoring costs will be slashed. The automotive industry, on the other hand, has criticised the guidelines citing various concerns ranging from safety to the economic effects. Who should we believe?

According to Riaz Haffejee, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber SA (Sumitomo Dunlop), the reality of the situation is somewhere in between. “Can these guidelines be beneficial to vehicle owners? Yes, indeed. They do have that potential. However, should these guidelines be implemented, the process will need to be carefully planned and executed,” he warns.

Haffejee cautions against the widespread enthusiasm at the publication of the guidelines. “Modern vehicles require expensive diagnostic equipment and trained technicians for servicing. The guidelines do stipulate that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must provide equipment or training to ‘independent service providers’ at a reasonable cost that may not exceed that imposed on employees of ‘approved service providers’.

“However, this equipment is expensive and independent service providers are likely to invest only if they believe that they can generate reasonable returns,” he says.
On a positive note, Haffejee points out that the guidelines do give vehicle owners the upper hand when it comes to purchasing power. “It is important for vehicle owners to have freedom of choice when it comes to the maintenance of their vehicles, and the new guidelines will allow for this to happen,” he says.

However, it’s far from just plain sailing on this front. “What happens if the vehicle owner fits sub-standard brakes to his or her vehicle – and ends up seriously injuring someone?” Haffejee asks.

This question applies to many different parts of a vehicle. “The lights, windscreen wipers, suspension and tyres are also safety-critical components. Vehicle manufacturers design, engineer and build their products very carefully for a reason. Vehicle owners have a responsibility to maintain their vehicles to a standard, and all components and serviceable items need to be replaced within specification,” he says.

Looking specifically at tyres, Haffejee says it is vitally important to ensure that the specifications of the tyre match the manufacturer’s requirements. “This pertains to tyre size, load index and speed rating. Buying and fitting cheaper tyres must not mean a compromised safety or performance result, which is clearly not the aim of the guidelines,” he explains.

The onus will be on retailers of parts and components – anything and everything from windscreen wipers to tyres – to give sound and responsible advice. “Tyre retailers and manufacturers now have a greater responsibility to deliver the correct advice and to educate consumers on the best replacement option without compromising technical attributes of the vehicle. Consumer safety needs to remain the primary concern of the retailer,” Haffejee notes.

OEMs will have to widen the scope of their training in order to guarantee this level of service. Before the publication of the guidelines, OEMs focused on training their approved service providers. That was a more manageable task. The practicalities associated with training thousands more service providers will be challenging.

Sumitomo Dunlop will focus on ensuring that its franchises can provide such a service, as Haffejee says: “As a company, we are going to continue to ensure that our franchises can provide the best advice while widening the pool of options for consumers. In this way, vehicle owners will be able to make informed decisions when replacing tyres.”

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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