by Bob Beranek
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Several of my recent posts have been about glass quality, primarily because it has been a frequent topic of discussion in our industry. Today, I want to discuss what increasing the quality of auto glass will mean to your business.

Will increasing the quality of auto glass mean that the price of glass goes up? It probably will. If you want higher quality, you will have to pay for higher quality, and you will have to sell the benefits of that higher quality to your customers.

Selling customers on higher pricing has been a problem for many of the owners and operators I‘ve talked to in past years. They say they can’t compete with X’s glass shop down the street if they don’t meet or beat its price. I disagree.

Selling the benefits of your auto glass replacement service is similar to selling anything else. Every service and every product offered to the public occupies its own niche in the marketplace. You can be the “low cost,” the “fast service” or the “high quality parts” supplier. The key to success is not figuring out how you can provide a similar product at a lower price, it is figuring out how your business is different from the competitors’ and then selling that distinction. “Difference” sells.

Remember that if price is the only decision point of a consumer, there would never be luxury or “quality” items offered.  If price is the only decision point, we would only drive Nissan Versas (the lowest priced vehicle for 2017) and talk to our friends on flip phones.

We as consumers choose products that appeal to our particular needs. If our need is for safety, we’ll look for items deemed safe. If our needs are cosmetic, we’ll buy what looks good. If our needs are to have our vehicle perform the way it always did, we’ll buy what is necessary to achieve that prior performance. Price is important, but it’s on a sliding scale that is directly proportionate to the perceived value.

It’s true that glass isn’t always an easy sell. A windshield is not a new boat, a new piece of furniture or new technology TV—it’s a transparent panel people look through and never notice. However, we all know good glass from cheap glass. If we explain to customers why our glass is better, they will know it, too.

Don’t simply put in what you get and complain among yourselves about the quality. Glass professionals need to explain the importance and performance features of the product they sell. You need to illustrate to your customer the benefits of his or her new windshield and explain how it contributes to comfort and safety. You need to sell its value; if you don’t, you are doomed to forever selling and installing junk glass for junk prices.

You want good glass? Learn about what good glass is. Then find it, pay for it, refuse poor quality and sell it for what it is worth. Cream rises to the top and so will the profits if you put forth the effort.

Complaints about glass quality are increasing right now, but I am a “pie in the sky” optimist. I believe that the Aftermarket Replacement Glass (ARG) will get better in the future unlike the current trend. The ARG market must up its game or go out of business and here’s why.

We all know that quality standards in the ARG market have been declining. It started with protruding PVB at the windshield edges so drastic that moldings couldn’t be attached without trimming it back. It progressed further with moldings applied so sloppily that we had to remove them and reapply our own, costing us more than we expected. Lately, we have mirror pads falling off, glass out of bend and parts failing to pass recalibration.  We lose money every time we have to then replace the cheaper glass we originally installed with an OE part anyway.

Like any business, ARG manufacturers may feel the need to reduce costs to remain competitive. Some of the ways a glass company can reduce cost is to reduce the quality control inspections, use less expensive add-ons like mirror and molding adhesives, and/or reduce labor hours where possible.  Waste is reduced by letting less-than first quality parts leave the plant and go on sale, rather than washing them out as defective. Fewer “defective” parts means less waste and more profits.

However, with the advent of Advanced Driver Assist Systems, the quality of ARG parts must be upgraded or their very existence may be in danger. The difference between the original equipment “dealer” parts (OE) and the ARG glass parts is the way the manufacturers get their specifications for production. The OE receives the specifications directly from the carmakers’ designers and engineers. The ARG gets their specifications through “reverse engineering.” The carmakers determine the tolerances they will accept with OE parts. ARG manufacturers determine their own tolerances, usually based on what the market will bear.

The OE has very tight tolerances because of the technology built into today’s vehicles. Some are performance driven while others are safety driven. Both performance and safety driven technologies are important to the carmakers because they want to make their vehicles attractive to buyers and their systems to work properly. OE glass parts specifications are important to the performance of the new technology.

ARG manufacturers cater to the vehicle owners. Some of those vehicle owners put the price of glass repair at a higher priority than the performance of the technology. In some cases, that is acceptable because a performance feature is the choice of the owner and, if the owner decides to bypass performance for price, that is his/her prerogative. An example of this might be the acoustical glass. ARG companies may not offer acoustical glass as an option because it is a patented process, and they choose not to purchase that technology from the patent owner.

However, safety technology cannot be bypassed for price. It must be made operable or the United States Highway Safety Act of 1966 is broken. If a safety technology is not returned to the glass part, then they will lose sales and possibly their whole business.

What does all this mean? I think it means that unless an ARG manufacturer wants to lose business to the dealers and OE suppliers, it will have to improve its quality, sell out or go out of business. I’m optimistic that the ARG industry will not disappear. They will make the adjustments to survive and will choose to improve their quality. Call me an optimist.