Anyone working in the parts industry remembers when young Tom Callahan Jr. saved Callahan Auto Parts with one of the most crazed sales pitches ever put on film in “Tommy Boy.” Though Tommy’s actions in the film’s climax were Hollywood nonsense, not every sales interaction that occurs in “Tommy Boy” is without a modicum of truth.
Parts warranties are used as a sales tool in the aftermarket.
But while Tommy argued against the “guarantee on the box” as false security, medium- and heavy-duty aftermarket suppliers say warranties can instill confidence and highlight component capabilities to help differentiate products in the marketplace.
Suppliers say confidence is earned two ways. One is the reassurance that if the part fails, the supplier will stand behind it. Tommy questioned the “guarantee on the box” because there was no proof the other supplier’s product would perform the way its packaging claimed. The flowery language existed as a marketing gimmick and nothing more. That’s not the case in the trucking industry, where longstanding suppliers stake their reputation on the quality of their products.
“In the aftermarket that scene is one of everyone’s favorites,” says WABCO’s Abe Aon, “because it references how important it is that a company makes a quality product and stands behind it. Customers care if a product has a warranty, but if a supplier does all the right things and makes a good, strong product, customers don’t need to see the warranty to trust [the company].”
As leader of WABCO’s aftersales, service and support teams, Aon says his team occasionally references warranties during sales discussions but rarely makes them a focal point of conversations. He says because customers know and trust WABCO, they instinctively believe the company will “make it right” if a part prematurely fails. The warranty makes explicit what customers believe is implied, he says.
Warranties also establish customer confidence that a product has been vetted — that the manufacturer has done the testing necessary to unequivocally state a product should last at least a certain number of years. Confidence in a product can go both ways, says Tim Bauer, Eaton’s vice president, Aftermarket, North America.
“I think as a supplier, you have to have a warranty to show confidence in your own product,” he says. “Even if you don’t use [the warranty] to sell, you have to be able to say, ‘This product will last.’”
Bauer says Eaton’s product testing is first and foremost geared toward performance validation but adds component lifecycle and warranty assertions also are confirmed during testing.
Other suppliers have similarly comprehensive product testing. Aftermarket Business Development Director David Schultz at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems says all Bendix new and remanufactured components are “subjected to stringent reliability standards and rigorous testing to ensure tolerance, performance and dependability.”
Aftermarket warranties are sometimes even extended when a product tests well during development. Those decisions speak to the capabilities of a component and are seen by the supplier community as another way warranties can be used to support product lines.
“We upped our clutch warranties last year when we saw there would be value in doing so,” Bauer says of Eaton’s EverTough product line. He says the decision was made when it was clear through both testing and in-market performance the components were lasting far beyond their current warranties.
Denso’s Gilbert Ramirez, manager, Heavy Duty Commercial Product Development and OES Sales, says his company rarely extends the length of its warranties but will sometimes streamline how a warranty program is administered based on a product’s performance. He says Denso’s priority is ease of doing business and ensuring if a breakdown does occur customers will be served promptly and their part replaced quickly so they can get back on the road.
“We want to have a best-in-class response in handling any customer’s needs,” he says.
Warranties also can be used to highlight products with lifecycles that far exceed competitors and industry norms.
Minimizer Director of Marketing Steve Hansen says most of his company’s products are sold with a lifetime warranty. Hansen says the everlasting warranties serve two key purposes: they display Minimizer’s willingness to support its product for as long as a customer owns it and they display how fundamentally unique most of the company’s products are compared with competitors.
“With our fenders we have a lifetime warranty because the product is literally that good,” he says. “When you buy a metal fender you can walk out the door and they could get dented and be ruined. With ours, you can pop the dent back out and they’re fine.”
Hansen says that’s the message Minimizer is trying to convey with its warranty lengths. When a customer buys a Minimizer fender, they shouldn’t need to buy another one until they get a new truck.
“We want them to know they are buying a product that’s going to last,” he says.