A recent Garage Wire news article reported on calls by eBay for independent aftermarket repairers to use recycled parts.
Normally my opinion, when it comes to maintenance repair of vehicles is black and white, and initially I rejected the idea.
I am in complete agreement with all the prominent automotive industry influencers, who promote the rejection of customer supplied parts for example.
The analogy that is often given, is of arriving at a restaurant with your own food and asking the chef to cook it for you.
Although this analogy is appropriate and makes a valid point about customer supplied parts, it is important to remember that some restaurants allow you to bring your own drinks.
This could be due to alcohol licensing regulations, or the organisations personal preference.
Either way, it shows that there is some scope within professional work to be flexible if the situation allows.
It is often overlooked, but the automotive aftermarket is a very large contributor to environmental sustainability.
We are all aware of the impact vehicles have on the world’s climate, and the large amount of research and development that is being put into finding alternative propulsion sources in the race to reduce fossil fuel use.
However unlike many other industries, we also provide an international repair network, keeping vehicles on the road and in many cases legally compliant, while reducing their impact on the environment.
Legislation is only just starting to catch up with the fact that, in general, we operate in a throwaway society.
For example, standards are just been introduced across Europe to enable the “right to repair“ for home electrical appliances.
This means that from 2021, firms will have to make longer-lasting appliances, and be in a position to supply parts for them for up to ten years, reducing their often short-term redundancy.
In the past, as these pieces of equipment have often been unable to be repaired, many are forced to buy a replacement, driving the environmental issues created in the manufacturing process of new machines.
With a long history working in an independent garage, Graham now teaches motor vehicle technology at Chichester College.
He’s a renowned author too, with ten books and three CD ROMS to his name so far, covering a range of vehicle technology topics from levels one to four.
To find out more about Graham Stoakes and his automotive books, visit his website.
Car manufacturing still forms a large part of the UK economy and is vital to sustain employment and our status as a global trade partner.
However, it is often said that a car is the second largest private purchase after a house, and many of us are not in a position to renew our vehicles on a regular basis.
This means that we as a repair industry have been proactive in the environmental arena even before it was fashionable or necessary as it undoubtedly is now.
Aftermarket parts supply
The difficulty arises when the choice is made in relation to the supply of parts used for maintenance and repair.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts should always be the best choice, however, OEM equivalent high quality parts are also available if purchased from a reliable source.
Recently there has been a surge in counterfeit parts, with copied branding and packaging produced to a very high standard, which are readily available from internet suppliers.
Poor quality counterfeit parts not only pose a reliability issue, but in many cases could seriously compromise safety.
This, however, is not the argument being made by eBay.
They have called for independent repairers to use “recycled parts”, meaning secondhand or pre-owned as eBay would put it.
If this is the case, how is this any different than using salvaged parts in any other repair situation?
Canvassing the opinions of some of my automotive students to their attitude towards the use of eBay and secondhand parts produced the following results.
A group of level three motor-vehicle students, with an average age of approximately 20-years-old, were all for it.
But this was mainly driven by the cost savings that they could make, and how familiar they are to internet purchases and eBay.
When I asked my level four students, with an average age of 30 plus, consisting of time-served technicians and garage owners, there was an understandable initial negative reaction; they were concerned about comebacks and reputation.
I decided to play devil‘s advocate, and see if I could change their opinion.
After all, when it comes to using eBay, I would be a hypocrite if I condemned it out of hand.
For example, I asked myself what I mainly buy from eBay, and the answer was tools and car parts, helping to maintain my hobby vehicles.
There are many vehicles for which spare parts are either no longer available new, or the cost would create an uneconomic repair.
I always teach my students that a key skill of good customer service is the ability to make a justifiable recommendation for repair.
If the repair requirement calls for safety critical components, there is absolutely no doubt that it should be replaced with an OEM equivalent brand-new part.
But secondhand or pre-owned as eBay would have it, could work for many comfort, convenience or drive system components if the quality can be guaranteed as in the statement provided by eBay.
After all, vehicle salvage is a huge industry, and if there could be another reliable outlet of recycled vehicle parts that would provide a “one-stop shop” for trade purposes, this could greatly enhance the industry’s sustainability credentials.
I grew up visiting salvage yards with my dad, and this was probably a contributing factor to me joining the motor trade in the first place.
Having had further discussion, some of the level four technicians admitted that salvaged parts, enhance sustainability, but would still be dubious.
Customer supplied parts
In conclusion, I am a little conflicted over my opinion on this matter.
Customer supplied parts should not be an option in 99 per cent of repairs, unless for example they have access to components that would otherwise be unavailable.
Where possible, new replacement parts should be sourced from a reliable supplier, where their origin can be confirmed and quality assured.
This will enable the aftermarket service industry to maintain high standards, reduce warranty issues and restrict any market for counterfeit components often sourced via the internet.
However, I do feel that there is definitely a place for eBay to create a professional supply chain of salvaged quality components to the motor trade, as long as suitable methods of warranty can be designed and implemented, especially if it can provide a sustainable and ecological impact on our industry.
“Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food – live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste”. David Attenborough.
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