Does ‘Made in America’ matter?

The following comes from the April 2018 issue of Truck Parts & Service.

Shutterstock 68395258

Another independent distribution marketing tactic undermined by brand disintegration is the partiality and favoritism toward American-made products.

When asked why, supplier and distributor representatives’ opinions were mixed.

One major hindrance is simply price point. Expanded aftermarket pricing tiers have widened the cost gap between premium brands and their value line competitors, making it harder for fleets to justify additional costs for locally made products.

Truck-Lite Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Brad Van Riper says his company still has success promoting its American-made products among first-owner fleets. When only evaluating genuine OE lines, “Made in America” remains a differentiator. In cases where a customer is driven more by component unit cost, Van Riper says country of origin is less of a customer priority.

There’s also the issue of what actually constitutes an exclusively American product, says Robin Stow, vice president of global aftermarket sales at AxleTech. He says buyers need to be aware of the differences between a premium brand aftermarket supplier with a global supply chain, versus a domestic supplier operating exclusively as an importer.

But even then, Stow says the number of customers who claim to value American products and then follow through by purchasing them seems pretty slim, adding, “I don’t think we always see them purchase like that.”

That said, Stow acknowledges AxleTech still stamps ‘Made in the USA’ on all of its domestically manufactured product and tries to promote that native manufacturing with any customer who shows an interest.

John Locke wishes all other manufacturers would do the same. Locke, master purchaser at Point Spring & Driveshaft, says he believes a sizeable portion of his customers are still motivated to buy American made parts. They just can’t always find them.

“A lot of domestic manufacturers are dropping the ball in labeling their product,” he says. “If you’re going to pay for all of that labor to manufacture your products here, you should have [Made in the USA] plastered all over it.”

Locke says he notifies customers anytime product conversation steers toward an American part. Not every customer will be swayed by the news, but Locke says he wants “them to know if they are willing to pay a little extra, what they’re paying for.”

Locke’s position, however, is not unanimous among distributors.

“I think for the great majority of customers, if the part is on time, it fits and it works, they’re done. That’s all they need,” says Alan Groff, president at Associated Truck Parts. “They don’t even look at the box.”

Groff says Associated Truck Parts carries lines sourced from all over the globe. He says in cases where a customer requests something specific, such as an American-made part, Associated Truck Parts will immediately get to work finding him one. But as for stocking and promoting lines explicitly as American made, Groff says he doesn’t think it’s worthwhile.

“Most customers just want the part that gets them back on the road,” he says.

To return to April’s cover story The Brand War, please CLICK HERE.

Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover