Webinar: Availability and adequacy of parts identification data


Publication Number: Webinar

Author: ICDP

Date: November 21, 2017

Tags: Parts

Downloads: 19Rating:

This webinar entlted "Availability and adequacy of parts identification data in the independent aftermarket" took place on 21st November.  It was available to all, not just ICDP members.  

  • Parts identification is a critical skill for independent parts distributors
  • Accuracy is maintained today by combining data from multiple sources, but is likely to become more challenging as vehicle complexity increases
  • Greater transparency of VIN numbers will make the task easier
  • An industry wide data exchange standard is not justified - going beyond what is needed for fair competition

These are the key findings from a special report by ICDP, commissioned by ACEA.  The report is available for download via this LINK.

ICDP was commissioned to provide a neutral assessment of how effectively the independent sector manages to identify its parts needs today, and whether the task will get more difficult in the future and if so, is the commonly-proposed solution of a cross-brand data exchange standard still appropriate?  The study was partially funded by ACEA (www.acea.be), but editorial control remained wholly with ICDP (www.icdp.net).

Car manufacturer authorised repairers (AR) and independent repairers (IR) depend on being able to identify the parts that are needed in order to carry out a service or repair.  ARs rely on the support of their manufacturer (OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer) and IRs draw on a range of resources, including parts distributors (PD), data publishers and sometimes OEM-provided catalogues.  The independent aftermarket (IAM) believes that growing levels of vehicle complexity are making this task harder.  They see a need for a regulatory solution to safeguard their market position, by giving them improved access to OEM parts identification data.  The OEMs counter that they have long been shown to be providing equivalent access to that enjoyed by their own franchised networks.

Our research found that IRs prefer to order parts by phone and the identification process usually becomes the responsibility of their PD.  Most PDs draw on catalogue providers and data publishers to identify IAM parts.  Despite a steady improvement in catalogues, the IAM stakeholder consensus is that growing vehicle complexity is now starting to outstrip the ability of their databases to identify a part.  To overcome this increase in complexity, we found a consistent view that an ideal starting point for parts identification is the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).  This should provide a direct link to the OE-numbers of all parts fitted to the car and which they could use to find an IAM equivalent part.  IAM stakeholders point to a lack of VIN format standards across OEMs, data usage restrictions and licence costs as some of the barriers to such a process.  However, we understand that OEMs struggle themselves to maintain this type of VIN to OE-number process, even for internal needs.  OEMs are also concerned about potential data protection issues if VIN-derived data was supplied to a third party without the explicit consent of that data’s ultimate owner i.e. the car owner.

We examined the proposed solution of a cross-brand common data exchange standard giving the IAM neutral access to standardised data across all OEMs in a single format.  We concluded that it would not prove to be a panacea in practice.  The standard would be extremely complex to implement, and may be unnecessary in any case if improved systems integration capability was used based around common access protocols (APIs) rather than standardised data.  Such a standard would go beyond the core requirement of providing data access on an equal basis to OEM-franchised and IAM operators alike, by effectively providing an OEM subsidy through the standardisation to those operators in the IAM who choose to provide a cross-brand service.  It would also risk creating different types of competition problems if its effect were to concentrate market power in the hands of third party ‘data gatekeepers’.

In conclusion, we established that the IAM has developed a variety of strategies for handling the parts identification task, but that these are being stretched by growing product complexity.  The transparency of the full VIN linked to OE-numbers would be beneficial to the IAM, with the interpretation and cross-brand aggregation managed as it is today by specialist data publishers, funded by their subscribers.

The report was examined in more detail in the webinar.