Pandemic spurs growth in remanufactured parts trade

Updated May 4, 2023
Someone works on remanufacturing a turbocharger.
A Turbo Solutions technician works on a remanufactured turbocharger.

Remanufacturers have long fought a battle.

“We live with the curse of the aftermarket,” says John Ferry, executive vice president of Turbo Solutions. “You get lumped in with all the other people that are doing repairs and rebuilds that are centered around price and not quality. The flag goes up when they hear aftermarket to suspect that the quality is not there.”

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Supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic gave remanufacturers like Turbo Solutions the chance to prove themselves. As new parts dwindled, fleets and truck owners turned to remanufacturers to keep their trucks running. And now that parts are moving more freely, some of those truck owners are sticking with them.

An image of the exterior of a truck before remanufacturing.A truck before a complete remanufacture by Vehicle Reman.

A truck after remanufacturingA truck after remanufacturing by Vehicle Reman.

A New, Old Model

Joe Gonzales of Vehicle Reman in Jarrell, Texas, says business picked up and has stayed up.

“[Truck owners] are starting to see another positive for their bottom line when it comes to reman,” Gonzales says.

His business takes work trucks, Classes 1-6, and completely remanufactures them. Gonzales says his company’s work can double the life of the vehicle while updating the technology and even the comfort of the truck. Vehicle Reman’s warranties are similar to OEMs. It gives three years, 100,000 miles on the powertrain and three years, 36,000 miles on all other systems.

Jaclyn Dowdle, the company’s chief of staff, says their business also appeals to companies that value sustainability.

“We’re riding that momentum into the next recession that’s looming,” she says. Companies are doing the smart, economic thing and refurbishing things rather than buying new, Dowdle says.

Vehicle Reman is planning to expand into new geographic areas and Dowdle and Gonzales expect demand will remain high.

Gonzales says he expects chip shortages to run into 2026 and that even if it picks up, “for work trucks and people in our industry, we’re kind of going to be at the bottom of the list.”

[RELATED: Supply chain woes hit salvage market with increased parts demand]

Turbocharged Business

Ferry says Turbo Solutions predicted the shortages at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Not that we’re geniuses,” he says, “but we kind of figured that was what was going to happen. We were right.”

He says his customers were impressed by the quality of the work they saw in their remanufactured parts. The quality comes from a true remanufacturing process that completely tears down the part, inspects, rebuilds and tests it before returning it to the customer, he says.

“When you take a look at all the re-s: repair, rebuild, recon, refresh. Remanufacturing is the only way to get the closest component to new condition,” Ferry says. “For those that truly remanufacture, it’s really about 100% disassembly and be able to inspect all the parts that are worn, but not necessarily broken.”

That kind of painstaking process can bring the component, such as the turbocharger, back to like-new condition, Ferry says, and give the customer significant savings. Plus, it’s good for the environment.

“Remanufacturing is green at its very core,” Ferry says. “You don’t have to produce new components. It’s friendly to the environment.”

Antonio Leon of Proturbo attributes some of the growth in his reman business to the pandemic, too, but not from supply chain problems. Instead, he sees the spike in owner-operator companies as a driving force.

“There are a lot more single vehicle owner-operators than ever before,” he says. “A lot of the funds available for small business during the pandemic were used to start this kind of company. The owners are very price-orientated, so they look for the most affordable alternative, and usually that is the aftermarket, remanufactured part.”

The Future

Molly MacKay Zacker is the vice president of operations at MacKay & Company. She says, in her company’s work, they’ve seen a shift given parts availability issues during the pandemic and beyond. Service providers had to find sources outside of their traditional channels. Remanufacturers likely benefited from this.

“It’s a relationship business,” she says. The pandemic provided an opportunity for remanufacturers to build those relationships. Given the nature of the business, those relationships are likely here to stay.

Geoff Selby’s company, D&D Instruments, says his instrument cluster remanufacturing business hasn’t gone down as supply chains opened up.

“From what we can see, there’s not something that we’ve been seeing a lot of coming in our door that all of a sudden falls off because replacements are available,” he says. “It’s kind of rewarding. It’s nice when the customers say, ‘I’m glad I found you.’” 

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