Back then we checked the parts basket of an 1996 Audi 80, 1998 Audi A4 and 1998 Audi A6. In the worst case – the Audi 80 – the franchised dealer’s prices were almost double the cheapest rival (the VW/Audi specialist), while in the other two cases, the prices were noticeably higher.
The three cars we tested this month are slightly younger, ranging from five to seven years old, against six to eight previously. Of most interest is the 1999 A4 1.9TDI. Last time we checked the 1998 version of that model and the prices now, aside from the time belt, are cheaper on every item.
Bigger change is the front shock absorbers, which drop from £66 to £47.80, and the glow plugs, down more than £17 to £31.
Clearly a lot of work has gone into realigning the prices. Of course, there are cheaper aftermarket parts out there than the ones we have surveyed, which all came from quality manufacturers such as QH, Bosch, Mintex, TRW, NGK and Gates, but it seems that, quite rightly, the trade has lost its appetite for cheaper, unknown brands.
The differentiating factor between the quality end of the aftermarket and OE parts is now down to the levels of service offered rather than simply the price.
We also tested a 2001 A2 1.4 16v and 2000 A3 1.6. Our participants are an Audi dealer, two continental parts specialists and an independent motor factor. The Audi prices are the recommended trade prices from the Audi Trade Connect programme.
Oil filter, air filter, fuel filter, plugs, timing belt, front disc pads, front brake disc, front shock absorber
Audi main dealer: £127.19
Continental specialist (1): £105.20*
Continental specialist (2): £104.00*
Independent factor: £ 93.75*
(* Not including shock absorber)
It’s in red, but the independent factor is not really the cheapest as it could not supply the shock absorber. Remove the shocks from the Audi prices, and it comes in at £85.04. We constantly complain about the price of ‘genuine’ timing belts, brake pads and discs but Audi shows just how competitive an OEM can be when it develop a parts scheme properly rather than simply thinking up a snappy name to tempt independent repairers.
Audi main dealer: £112.83
Continental specialist (1): £127.93
Continental specialist (2): £126.30
Independent factor: £128.53
Audi again comes in first with another well priced selection of parts. We can’t quite believe that our Continental Specialist (2) is trying to sell a filter at more than double the price of the genuine article as they are normally very competitive in this area; perhaps it was a misprint on its list.
The price differential between the specialist suppliers and the independent factor/retailers, which were so wide a few years ago, seems to have narrowed and virtually disappeared.
Audi main dealer: £169.22
Continental specialist (1): £153.57
Continental specialist (2): £146.90
Independent factor: £130.32
This time our independent factor takes the honours (even though the fuel filter seemed overpriced) with excellent pricing on the oil filter, brake parts and the shock absorber.
The two continental specialists weigh in at some 10-15% higher than the factor and only around 10% cheaper than Audi itself. As an older, more popular model, we assumed that the aftermarket might have the edge on price but we certainly did not think it would be this close.