One of the real joys of being both an owner and CSR is the customer contact that I receive. It is an education of how truly gullible people are despite what degrees they may hold or how much research they may conduct when trying to make a buying decision.
I had set up an appointment with a client whose insurer does not pay for any glass with a car manufacturer’s logo. The vehicle, a late model Acura TSX uses a Japanese produced windshield that none of my local distributors carry. I informed her that I would pick an aftermarket brand that had the best acoustic qualities that my past customers had given me feedback on.
Three hours later, I heard from my customer again. On a friend’s suggestion, she contacted our national leader, whose CSR had informed her that the glass that they used was the “same as” what the manufacturer used. She took that to mean it was the OE brand that they would install. My reply to her was to have them come out and before the technician starts the install, look at the label on the new windshield they were prepared to put in her vehicle. It would be considerably different from the Acura logoed glass. It may look the same but it would not be from the same glass manufacturer that Acura contracted from. She called me back the following day and I subsequently did the install.
I have heard that very same phrase “it is the same as” so many times, my ears hurt. From aftermarket glass to generic mouldings, the shops who promote this nomenclature should be seeking out plastic surgeons to fix their Pinocchio-length proboscises because they are flat out misleading their customers. An AG part may look the same but most times it is simply not of the same overall quality as the OE part it is replacing.
Is this just an opinion or is it fact? Using the “looks like a duck, flies like a duck, quacks like a duck scientific method, would the aftermarket AG industry accept a side-by-side test of which brands of glass and mouldings meet or exceed quality levels set by an OE manufacturer?
I am not sold that every windshield or moulding that is made for original production is free of defects. Mistakes happen. I have made a living off of warranty installs based on distortions and laminate contamination, just to name two conditions that have required my services. I am also aware that the vehicle manufacturer in some cases put the glass out to bid and low unit price usually is the criteria to win. Yet it seems that the production values which occur for OE glass far exceed those that are used in the aftermarket. We are talking about basic things like glass quality and clarity, laminate strength and hardware bonding. Can it be said that the glass we install at replacement time is ever better than the OE brand that is being removed? The current non answer is: “it is the same as.”
Imitation may be the sincerest form of praise but sadly in today’s knock off world, it hardly guarantees quality. In fact, it is my contention that practically every aftermarket part we encounter and use is at least a step away if not much further removed from the OE part we are replacing.
Yet, we can line up five different brands of glass (we would have to stop in at least three or more distributors to collect such) and compare what an aftermarket glass or moulding looks like to the original part. They all look alike: glass, frits, third visor and attachments. But my argument is that in the performance and perhaps longevity department, they lack the legs to go the distance.
I have encountered laminate that tears on its own during the removal process. I have had large shards of glass pop off the laminate while using a cold knife. Don’t just these two actions denote safety minimums not met? Acoustic windshields that do not perform as advertised. Why can’t a glass manufacturer install a mirror bracket or hardware that stays bonded or put in the exact spot needed?
Let’s not forget mouldings. How many generic rolls are consumed daily that either lack the density or even shape of what is being replaced? Right now, I have little confidence in replacement moulding brands that my distributors carry. I have found that far too many replacement parts are flimsy, wrinkle, cut too short in length or width and will shrink over time. The dilemma a retailer faces is overpaying for an OE part or putting up with the deficiencies of an aftermarket one. The sad part is that for far too many owners, manager or buyers, cost cutting is a religion so those decisions come easily and without conscience. Yes, there are good quality aftermarket mouldings out there but they cost more. The need to go cheap is a choice that is made far too easy by both distributors and shops.
Today we have retailers touting the ability of their techs to perform a “factory-like install” when they use an assisting device. Never mind the fact that for the most part, they are using their own internally produced windshields that have never ever seen an OE logo and are wrapped by a generic moulding. One should not dismiss the fact that the tool they use will either allow a single operator to work alone, thereby reducing labor costs or lower the possibility of injury or warranty issues. To me it is just dressing up a pig to become a princess.
So when did the “same as” mean “equal to?” To me, the use of the term “like quality” is more of a wish than a fact. In far too many instances, an aftermarket part (or install) is not close to quality or longevity than an OE one. I will not dispute the fact that OE parts are priced too high and have limited sources or that every factory install is perfect. That is not the issue.
What is the issue is the attempt by AGR to build and sell mediocrity (or worse) and call it equal to what the car was originally built with. Our industry is not alone in dealing with globalization of manufacturing, price pressures from both the public and corporate markets and pure survival. This is locally and regionally caused by outside economic forces. Yet we all seem to embrace, even cling to the life raft of cheap replacement parts and try to justify those actions by telling our customers they look the same as what they have in their vehicles. The performance of those parts is a subject not broached.
While AGR has not yet descended to the level of selling Rolex watches for $20, it is my belief that we are closer to that tipping point than the majority opinion professes. Be careful what one wishes for, because there is a need for quality as well as profitability in this world.
Just be hopeful that your surgeon cares about you the “same as” he does about his bottom line.