You can’t stop the growth in brake part SKUs.
Brake parts are a significant part of most jobbers’ and many shops’ business, so much so that David Vaughan, Vice President, Corporate Stores for Vast-Auto Distribution, ranks brake parts as his company’s number one are of business, by dollar volume.
There are several aspects of the category that make it tricky to manage. As the number of manufacturers, the number of models and the number of sub-levels increases, the list of brake part SKUs continues to grow. Since jobbers rely on their WD for this large variety of parts, the distributors, like Vast-Auto, have added warehouses so they can deliver the required parts more expeditiously.
As well as proliferating, the parts required are changing in nature. According to Brian Kowalski, Vice President, Branded Sales, Canada at Brake Parts Inc. “we’re definitely seeing fewer drums as more and more vehicles are equipped with four-wheel discs. OEMs for several years now have been equipping their vehicles with coated rotors and coated drums to protect these parts from rust.”
Besides coating calipers, rotors and drums to give these parts longer life by prohibiting rust, a primary OEM’s purpose is to have a rust-free appearance on their new vehicles on the lot that have the open wheel design. This trend has really created demand in the replacement parts market.
Kowalski anticipates that in the coming years, consumer demand will be driven to coated rotors and calipers as they will be looking to replace their OE rotors with like for like aftermarket parts. The brine used for Canadian winters has accelerated the demand for replacing OE installed coated brake parts and in urban centres like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal—where stop and go traffic prays on brakes in addition to winter salt and slush—that demand is even more pronounced.
Other trends worth noting is the comparative quality of offshore parts, which don’t necessarily deliver the premium quality claimed, according to Vaughan. There is, naturally, a price advantage in these suppliers although generally the gap is narrowing between the name and will-fit suppliers. He stresses that the role of the jobber and technician is to understand what they are using so they can mange longevity expectations.
Because Vast-Auto is working with trusted partners and as those partners adapt to increased use of coated and semi-ceramic parts, as well as finding their way through newer California regulations, the company has experience declining failure levels in the brake sector in recent years, according to Vaughan.
Other changes may be on the horizon as OEMs trend toward electric and hybrid vehicles that may shift the paradigm for jobbers. The regeneration can greatly extend the life of the braking system so parts do not wear as quickly,” Kowalski points out.
Stopping vehicles is even more important than motivating them so even as they evolve, brakes and their maintenance are likely continue being a critical focus of the industry.