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Thursday, 21 October 2010 16:25

Karen Fierst Gives Her Take on the Competition in Aftermarket Parts

Karen Fierst, previously associated with the Taiwan Auto Body Parts Association (TABPA), spoke at several aftermarket parts sessions during the NACE 2010 expo.

After 11 and a half years Fierst is no longer representing TABPA and is pursuing other opportunities. Her work within the aftermarket parts industry led Autobody News to ask her for a quick overview of the current aftermarket parts industry.

Fierst made a distinction about what she works with within the aftermarket parts industry; her background is with external, sometimes called ‘cosmetic,’ aftermarket parts. Although she did acknowledge the current issues going on within the industry concerning structural aftermarket parts, she admitted that that arena isn’t really on her radar.

Fierst also supports the current CAPA standard, saying it was “strong and viable.” But she did acknowledge that there are prevalent issues within her sector of the aftermarket parts industry, particularly when it comes to their demand in the marketplace.

“Aftermarket parts have become a commodity; people don’t realize that there are different levels of quality,” said Fierst.

She sees the aftermarket parts market as very dysfunctional, and that to create any sort of change all facts of the industry; manufacturers, insurance companies and body shops all have to be in agreement.

“We need quality competition,” said Fierst. She also went on to say that because insurance companies are less involved with body shops’ usage of aftermarket hard parts (non-crash parts), that the usage of those parts goes through less politics.

“Because CAPA has not been widely accepted by repairers, a niche has opened up for competition in the standard arena,” said Fierst. She believes this will be a good thing for the industry because through multiple trials and options at the beginning of a national parts certification standard, the U.S. will be able to come out with a better product.

Fierst also mentioned that within the collision industry there is not a normal supply-demand chain from manufacturers to body shops because insurers get involved as a third party. According to Fierst, the quality issue would have been solved long ago through this natural supply-demand process if the insurance companies had not gotten involved in a body shops’ parts choice.

When it came to legislation that is supposed to help curb issues within the aftermarket parts industry, Fierst felt that although most of the legislation had good intentions that “often it’s not well thought through and viable.”

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t resolve this in-house,” said Fierst.

Although she does not agree with the current signed consent to use aftermarket parts notifications for consumers because it singles out aftermarket parts, she does feel that consumers should be informed and have a choice.

“Consumers should know what is being put on their cars,” she says with conviction.

She is currently exploring other options in the industry. Contact her at kfierst, or phone: 301-681-4383

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