It’s often ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to brand names

I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to being brand conscious.

I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to being brand conscious.

I have my preferred products. My initial reasoning seems rational but as life has gone on (developing wisdom?) my loyalties to any product or brands are waning. This is particularly so when it comes to big brand names.

I have learned that as companies increase in size they also put a higher priority in decreasing the cost of doing business.

“A penny saved is a penny earned” becomes more important as a conglomerate develops.

They begin to afford the manpower to decide whether producing cheaper or poorly engineered parts will make them more money (without harming their powerful name).

It is a game of percentages. If the claims against a bad part are less than the cost of developing a good part they will stick with the bad one.

The auto parts business has taught me this lesson very well.  A certain big name conglomerate lists a simple maintenance item for a certain vehicle that fits and visually looks the same but does not at all function the same.  In this particular application it made the vehicle burn oil.

It took me considerable time (money) to solve the problem for my customer. I put in a very significant claim to this conglomerate for my customer’s and my trouble.

They scientifically verified that the component I installed did not meet the specifications for the vehicle I had installed it in.  They paid me my claim but to this day they still recommend the same part for that same vehicle.

Periodically after this incident I would look up the same application and purchase the same part and test it against the correct part.  Nothing had ever changed. That part would cause exactly the same problem.

When big conglomerates recognize a problem and change their ways they will do what is called a running change.

There is no indication to me, the consumer, when I will be getting the newly designed and improved part.  They will not take the bad stock out of circulation because that will cost them more than the warranty claims against them.

I operate a small business and selling one bad part is significantly harmful. If I can avoid selling that one part I will.

The search is on for a new supplier a lot sooner than they think. I am small potatoes to them though and it just does not matter.

This name brand topic came to me the other day while working under the hood of one of my favorite brand vehicles.

The oil fill cap had the brand name of a major engine oil supplier on the cap. This name brand oil company was one of my favorites from my air cooled VW owning days.

That company now makes a lot of different engine oils of different quality.

Many of its engine oils would not meet the standards required to be used in that automobile.  Not knowing any better many customers would buy the wrong oil for that vehicle.  A lot of stores carry that brand but very few, if any, carry the specific formula of that brand that meets the vehicle’s requirements.

Buyer beware.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

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