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The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Auto Parts And Original Equipment Quandary

2022-01-21 - IPD Staff

In over fifty years of selling auto parts we have seen many changes. There was a time when customers just wanted to be told which part was best, but things have really changed. There is so much information out there (and misinformation) that we know we simply need to be transparent and most customers will make their own decision after viewing the data presented in front of them. But even basic factual information can be stretched in the name of “marketing” and even the definitions of words seem to vary depending on whom is using them. 

We get a lot of questions about the quality of the various brands and parts that we sell. This is not surprising since most customers do not have the experience or time to devote to the level of research that we do. “Quality” is a word that has different meanings and interpretations for different people so we thought we should give a little more explanation about the different classes of auto parts and what these terms mean (or don’t mean). Some of this may be enlightening for you, or confusing, we’re here to be honest and share the knowledge our specialists have acquired throughout the years.

In the interest of transparency, here is a synopsis of what we hold to be true about the terms used to classify auto parts brands.

 

OEM (Genuine), OES, and Aftermaket in a nutshell

OEM = Original Equipment Manufacturer

These are parts that come directly from the Vehicle Manufacturer.  i.e. parts in a Blue Volvo branded box.  OEM parts are also referred to as “Genuine”.

OES = Original Equipment Supplier

An Original Equipment Supplier is a manufacturer that the Car Manufacturer (OEM) contracted to build a part.  Or in other words, this is the manufacturer Volvo hired to build a particular component of a vehicle.

Aftermarket = Copies of OEM parts

Aftermarket parts generally come in varying levels of quality and can be better or worse than OEM parts.  Most budget and “performance” parts are aftermarket. 

This all seems pretty straight forward, but there are misleading and confusing factors involved. For example, there are OES grade manufacturers that make parts for other cars and applications where they were never the OES.  If that isn’t confusing enough, there is also an auto parts company that sells under the brand name “OEM” but that’s not even an OES for any manufacturer.

Let’s take a few moments and unpack some of the intricacies of this topic.    

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer (Genuine)

OEM parts are sourced from the vehicle manufacturer:  Volvo, Volkswagen, Subaru, Honda, etc.

OEM parts are usually only available directly through the vehicle dealership network.

OEM parts are usually equal to or better than the part installed on the factory assembly line however this is not always the case.  If you were happy with the service life of the original part then this may be a good option for you.

These OEM parts are not always the same as what was originally installed at the factory.  Consider the difference between the “original equipment manufacturer” and “original equipment from the manufacturer”.   One means that this is the same as the part installed at assembly and the other means it is what is currently supplied by the dealership as the recommended factory replacement part.  This means that the replacement part may be different from what was originally installed on your car at the factory.

Vehicle manufacturers will also sometimes completely redesign parts because of chronic failure.  Usually this only happens while the model is still under warranty but occasionally happens later.  In these cases, the replacement part may be very different than part you are replacing. (i.e. Volvo no longer sells the brass heater valve installed on the 240 series at the factory but supplies a plastic shutter valve as OEM)

Vehicle manufacturers source most parts from third party manufacturers.   Parts are engineered to meet the OEM’s quality standards. The OEM can change the manufacturing source of a part for a variety of reasons such as engineering changes, quality issues, cost advantages, changes in technology, changes in currency exchange rates or even trade restrictions between countries. This ongoing supersession can cause disagreements about the correct part number.

OES – Original Equipment Supplier

An OES is a third party manufacturer for an OEM Vehicle Manufacturer (most basic definition). The typical car company (like Volvo) simply does not have the ability to manufacturer every part they need to make a car.  It’s much more cost effective to contract with existing specialty manufacturers.   This is true with many complex industries and automotive is just one example.  Specialty manufacturers can produce parts more efficiently, faster and many times have more experience to produce a better part.

Typically, a supplier change or engineering/design change results in the OEM superseding the part number to a new number.  There are some Volvo part numbers that were superseded many times. These supersession chains can also be caused by continuing development to use the same part on newer/more models. (i.e. using the stronger axles for a turbo model on a non-turbo model as an HD upgrade can also eliminate the original part)

If the OEM vehicle manufacturer changes suppliers at some point, the new supplier can now be called OES even though that part is not original to the car. So keep in mind that OES does not necessarily mean it is the same as the part that was originally installed on the car at the factory.

Original Equipment Supplier seems on the surface to be really simple.

In most cases, you can get the same OE engineered part just not in a OEM branded box (i.e. blue Volvo branded box.) 

Many times, you can see where the OEM branding branding has been ground off of the castings or stickers removed from the parts.  This is because the OES manufacturer does not have the licensing rights to sell products using the vehicle manufacturer’s brand name or trademark.

A good example is the OES Aisin water pumps IPD sells.  Aisin does a manufacturing run for Volvo and produces extra units for their own channel but they grind off the Volvo branding from the casting.  Aisin also does not include new bolts with the pump because Volvo didn’t source the bolts from them as part of the pump. Aisin may not even know what bolts are used in any given application since Volvo doesn’t have any obligation to tell them.   IPD provides new bolts with our pump kits to make them a direct equal replacement for the Volvo branded kits at a lower price.

Most aftermarket parts sources will label a parts manufacturer as OES since they are OES for some parts but will not differentiate for each model or application. Some just flag a whole brand as OES because they are OES for one car manufacturer. But being OES supply for one part does not make a supplier OES for the entire vehicle.

Generally speaking, OES parts are the most cost effective quality option.  However, there can be aftermarket options that are better.

There are even some OES suppliers that will make lower quality versions of the OE parts for their aftermarket supply channel.  We don’t generally see this in the European car market but it is possible.  It’s usually not cost effective for lower volume manufacturing runs to retool for a cheaper version. We’ve even seen where the original OES manufacturer is still selling the old version of a redesigned part through their aftermarket channel after Volvo re-engineered the part and moved to a new manufacturer.

At IPD, we attempt to match OES parts to OEM parts and make sure they are equivalent.  We don’t like to list something as OES when it isn’t equivalent to OEM. Many parts suppliers are blurring or eliminating the line between OEM and OES though this isn’t really full disclosure.  This is why IPD is moving away from the deceptive OEM terminology and using the term Genuine.

Aftermarket to the rescue!

This term really applies to any part that is neither OES nor OEM.

Aftermarket parts can come in a wide variety of quality levels. Many people will assume that all aftermarket parts are inferior but this is largely anecdotal.

Consider that "Performance" or “HD” parts are technically aftermarket but in many cases are significantly better than OEM/OES. For example, Sachs is OES for most Volvo factory shocks and Bilstein is aftermarket, though few would claim Sachs is superior quality when compared to Bilstein.

The aftermarket generally moves to address a void in the offerings. You will generally find aftermarket versions of OEM parts that have a high failure rate and can be made for significantly less than the OES part. You will also see more aftermarket options for high wear items such as brakes, engine compnoents, and suspension parts. 

There are times when the aftermarket part may still be OES but sold for less in an unbranded white box. There are times when an aftermarket part is just an inexpensive copy. There are times when the aftermarket is making a superior part to address the high failure rate of the OEM/OES version.  (i.e. GMB water pumps were never an OES option for Volvo but IPD offers GMB water pumps for many older Volvo vehicles because they have consistently demonstrated a better lifespan than the OEM offering.   The reality is that Volvo has used several different OES manufacturers for water pumps over the years with varying results. This doesn’t mean you won’t find anecdotal failures of GMB pumps, but overall they are still a superior aftermarket option.)

IPD's HQR, AMR, and AMP explained.

We hope you’re staying with us getting up to speed with the differences between OEM, OES, and aftermarket nomenclature.   If you’re confused, we’re going to really do our best to tip you over the edge! Well, we hope that isn’t the case.   Moving on, there are a few more acronyms that needs to be addressed before closing this article.  These aftermarket acronyms classify each product.  By now you know we take pride in being transparent when sharing our observations when adding products to our site.  You may wonder how IPD can determine the quality of these products.  Here at IPD we utilize 100’s of years in combined experience specific to Volvo when classifying products sourced from some of the largest automotive manufactures in the industry.  We do have an entire team of Volvo enthusiasts dedicated to classifying these items properly.  

HQR - High Quality Replacement Parts

When you're browsing our website you will more likely become familiar with the HQR part classification.  Many of the industries leading parts manufacturers do a fantastic job finding opportunities to fill what they see is a gap in the OEM offerings.  That can mean many things.  Well known part manufacturers like Bosch, Mahle, Mann have been utilized by Volvo to develop or mass produce products initially.  Those same manufacturers produce items under their own label where it can benefit them and the consumer.  Below are a few reasons these manufacturers decide to produce items under their own name. 

  • Price gap: selling parts cheaper than OEM or OES
  • Demand gap: soaking up extra demand for parts beyond what OEM/OES can supply, like for brakes, belts, or other wear items that need frequent replacement
  • Quality gap: selling stronger versions of parts to replace originals with a high failure rate

We are extremely lucky to have these options available to us as Volvo owners.  These high quality manufacturers see a demand in the aftermarket and keep the products in production allowing us to maintain our vehicles.  These products are normally priced below the OEM level. 

IPD has a full line of IPD branded HD components that fall into this category. Our team of experts research items where there are common failures and an opportunity to develop something far more superior than anything offered by OEM, OES or by any aftermarket manufacturer. 

IPD calls this line of product HD (Heavy Duty)  Some may consider these performance items, but HQR classified items are a great alternative to the OEM listings while maintaining high quality and durability as a replacement part. 

Some examples are the IPD Upper Spring Seat along with our entire line of HD Endlinks.  While browsing our AMR classified items, you will notice many exclusive items that have been developed by IPD over the years.

AMR - Aftermarket Replacement

IPD sells a full line of AMR (Aftermarket Replacement) products from very well known parts manufacturers.   Our team does an incredible job identifying these parts manufacturers who offer a more cost-conscious product.  IPD wants to give our customers many options when it comes to repairing or finding a specific item to keep their Volvo running.  

Examples of brands that can be classified as AMR are Uro, MTC, Professional Parts Sweden, Rein, etc.  This doesn't mean that these companies don't also sell some high quality replacements. Many of the industries leading manufacturers fall under this category.  If it wasn’t for these specific suppliers, it would be extremely difficult to maintain or keep your Volvo on the road.   AMR items have such a huge range due to the support from so many manufacturers and distributors.   When searching under this category it’s not uncommon to find products from lighting, suspension, braking, heating/cooling exterior and interior replacement parts.  

IPD has classified many AMR products that fit within your budget without having to sacrifice quality.   

AMP- Aftermarket Performance

IPD's classification of AMP (Aftermarket Performance) parts host a wide range of products from various manufacturers.

There are many examples, so let’s start with a name you might be familiar with:  Bilstein shock absorbers are well known throughout the industry for making a fantastic upgraded shock absorber.  Bilstein shocks come factory on many trucks and cars other than Volvo.  Some of our competitors may classify Bilstein as OES.  The fact is they do not make any factory shocks or struts for Volvo applications, we can only hope for that in the future!  IPD has offered Bilstein shocks and struts for over 45 years.   Bilstein has a line of HD, B6 and B8 shocks and struts that are basically a direct replacement part, meaning they go into the same location as a normal Sachs shock, but the difference is the Bilsteins offer more performance when it comes to the handling characteristics of your Volvo.  We know that Bilstein's main purpose of their upgraded shocks and struts is to increase the ability of how the Volvo handles and performs.  

An obvious example of Aftermarket Performance Products is high performance exhaust systems, high flow intake filters, sport springs, sway bar kits.  Some items increase the overall power output and some increase the handling characteristics.  Our team of specialists classify AMP products that will definitely enhance the vehicles ability to perform in various situations that will suit your upgraded needs or desires.  

This probably won’t answer every question for the most inquisitive among us and we certainly don’t know every answer. We would like to believe this clarifies the majority of the terms used and abused in the name of auto parts marketing but we know that the subject is very broad. We also know it’s just a matter of time before someone starts an aftermarket parts company called “Genuine”;) If you have questions or comments feel free to drop us a note or call our friendly customer service staff.