ADAS: OEM vs. Aftermarket Who Wins?

 

What if you came to a corner and found a person hawking Rolex watches for $20? Would you buy one? Two? A dozen for investment purposes? Say you walk farther and another salesperson approaches you selling unlocked I phones for $75. You then find yourself at a street fair where there is a display selling suits with Armani labels for $50 and another with Oakley shades for $5. Is it your lucky day for value? Or would you stop to consider the fact that you just got ripped off by buying inferior knockoffs?

This is an ever day occurrence in the world of automotive glass. We are being sold and then turning around and installing a product that allegedly meets our national standard. We are both sheep and wolves as we accept, what I believe, is a substandard product to install and foist it on a public that is so focused on low prices that they are blissfully ignorant on the quality tradeoff they are getting.

How do I define a substandard product? Does weight count? Have you ever lifted the old glass out and found it heavier than the replacement? What about attachments that are not bonded in the same place as the OEM one? Have you ever had a door glass catch in the runs or develop wind noise due to incorrect size, width or bend? What about glass distortion, as well as mirror and sensor brackets that either are minimally bonded or placed incorrectly on a windshield? Does a replacement glass resist chipping at low speeds?

All of this may be coming to a head with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). I agree with Bob Beranek that this new technology is going to change automotive glass installation in the future. But will the demand for cheap products by both insurers and a budget-minded public continue to fuel the downward slide of our trade?

I have installed more than 200 OEM Acura and Honda windshields with ADAS systems since 2014. I’ve installed windshields on probably another 100 vehicles such as Mercedes, GM, Audi and Subaru that have cameras with braking assist. Another 12 were replacements to OEM glass from aftermarket windshields that had quality and calibration issues. One well known aftermarket manufacturer uses double-back tape to bond the rain sensor brackets to the glass. This has caused some issues with separation in my opinion. So what does this company use to attach a camera bracket? It is my policy to only use OEM glass when ADAS is present. I have yet to have an issue with re-calibration by doing this.

The main reason I make this choice is liability. Why would any intelligent glass shop owner, corporate or sole proprietor, expose themselves to being sued by a customer if the system did not work properly after installation of an aftermarket replacement glass?

The common defense of discount glass shops is that OEM is no better than aftermarket. As a shop of record for a number of service departments handling warranty glass issues, I could count on one hand, distortion or quality issues I would have in a year. Whereas on any given day, I could find something wrong with any aftermarket brand being delivered to me. Some name brands far more than others. We, as glass shop owners are as much to blame as anybody because we accept these low quality knock-offs. It allows us to profit more. If we, as buyers, demand a better line of products to install, independent distributors might order better products and these world brand manufacturers might respond better to quality issues. At this point, it is “all about the Benjamins” for mobile installers and glass manufacturing CEOs.

What propels this drive to slide is an ignorant and value-driven public which is ripe to believe that they are getting a better product when shopping “for the best price.” Last week, I received a request for a windshield replacement on a lease return Mercedes GL550 that had ADAS. The OEM glass list price was just over $900 which was a pleasant surprise to me for a premium SUV that cost well over $100,000. The caller scolded me after I gave her my quote as she had found someone who would do her windshield for “half the price.”

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