An open letter to aftermarket product managers


Chris Small
Chris Small

In a guest appearance on the CAT Council, Chris Small challenges the convenience of online catalogues.

A couple months ago I wrote a piece for CAT about a chap called Henry Leland and his engineering vision and passion for accuracy. His ideas moved car maintenance out of the blacksmiths and into independent workshops. That was 100 years ago, but we still rely on Leland’s idea of interchangeable parts to this day.

As a motor factor, the basic principle of cataloguing car parts is what our entire operation is based on. Without this life-line we would be back at the blacksmith, but these days the big thick books full of part numbers are gradually becoming a thing of the past. The advent of online and electronic catalogues has vastly improved accessibility to information and indeed we have come a long way; or have we?

One of the problems with paper catalogues is that they are pretty much out of date as soon as they’ve come off the printing presses. New components are being released all the time, so the writers of the catalogues often have to predict which parts will soon become available to try and extend the life of the publication.

Beauty of E-catalogues?

The beauty of electronic online catalogues is information can be added in real-time and updated with relative ease, but there is still a problem. Many manufactures still insist on adding part numbers to online catalogues that they are unable to supply. I understand that reference numbers need to be created to identify new parts that will be added at a later date, but there is no need to publish these numbers, complete with prices, until the part is physically available.

Accuracy is key

I’m not talking about running out of stock, that happens to the best of us, I’m talking about not having it because it doesn’t actually exist in their range. Not all suppliers are guilty, but many are, and we all lose out – the factor loses faith in the supplier, while the garage loses confidence in the factor and the brand it is promoting. All because someone decided to publish a part number for an item that doesn’t exist.

If you really want to release new part numbers that aren’t actually available, just don’t give a price, so we could assume we can’t have it yet.

Get listings right

I phoned a very well-known supplier last week to enquire about a set of brake pads that were listed on its online catalogue but not available. “We’ve been trying to find a source for these pads since 2008,” they told me. In fact, they catalogued it in 2008 and have never had a source for them. This kind of misleading practice just makes us all look like idiots, and it needs to stop. Please.

We have enough of a struggle on our hands at the moment with the economic climate being like it is, so we could really do without more problems created by the people who are supposed to be supporting us.


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