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Sewells best practise: BER reaches parts its predecessors didn’t

The spare parts business has always been a bit of an automotive Cinderella. But the current block exemption could shake up parts wholesaling, even though parts were mentioned in the regulation only in the context of the rights of OE suppliers distributing in the aftermarket, and when ‘equivalent quality’ parts could be fitted.

As something of an afterthought in its Frequently Asked Questions document of autumn 2003, the European Commission confirmed that carmakers above the market share threshold of 30% for certain categories of spare parts cannot refuse to authorise parts distributors that do not also repair vehicles. Most manufacturers are above that threshold, and can accordingly use only qualitative criteria to select authorised spare parts outlets.

An independent Land Rover parts specialist won an authorised parts distribution contract with the franchise earlier this year. More recently Citroen UK appointed the independent factor Euro Car Parts as an authorised parts distributor.

So it’s now open to independent motor factors to compete directly with the dealer groups’ multi-franchise ‘superfactor’ OE parts operations. Any factor is entitled to apply to a carmaker – or several - to become an authorised parts distributor.

So, for that matter, is any crash repair chain (or even an insurer) that can meet carmakers’ qualitative standards for parts.

What’s more, after October 1 next year, a motor factor chain with one parts franchise will be entitled to open further outlets wherever it needs to supply its van stock.

However, a motor factor would be required to stock the carmaker’s full range just like a dealer, and not just cherry-pick the fast turn parts. The same applies to bodyshops, but what if a bodyshop chain or an insurer bought an independent motor factor to achieve sales across the range with the bonus of crash parts at wholesale?

There may not have been much movement in the parts trade but there’s a 50:50 chance that in just four years’ time the block exemption could be replaced with a ‘free for all’. So now is the time for some creative thinking.

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