Original Equipment parts manufacturers cannot justify the investment in technology and training to only supply the vehicle manufacturers. The US’s service and replacement parts market are enormous, and OE branded parts are only a fraction of the total demand. The average age of vehicles in the US exceeds eleven years making for a sizable aftermarket parts demand.
AutoZone has developed a house brand named Duralast which sells exclusively through AutoZone distribution. Duralast brake parts include rotors, pads, shoes, and related brake components that are very good and more affordable than the OE branded parts.
AutoZone realized that consumers require different price options for service and replacement parts and have created a Good, Better, Best strategy in the branding of their Duralast brand. Let’s look at some of the myths in the industry regarding the quality of aftermarket brands like Duralast.
How Good Are AutoZone’s Duralast Branded Parts?
In the heyday of the automotive industry, companies like General Motors and Ford owned most of the upstream supply chain from lumber yards to refrigeration to supply all components required to build cars, except for tires. AC Delco was a parts manufacturer belonging to GM and supplied OE branded and aftermarket branded parts to the service and repair market.
Car manufacturers brazenly exploited their monopoly on the parts market and charged exorbitant prices for the branded parts. They set themselves up for a fall! The high demand and lucrative parts market attracted the interest of aftermarket-only parts manufacturers. Early damage to the reputation of aftermarket parts was done due to poor quality design copies and poor quality controls.
There are still some unscrupulous parts manufacturers trying to get their sub-standard parts into developed markets. The introduction of strict regulations on performance and eliminating asbestos pollution has been very effective in getting rid of the poor quality brake parts in the aftermarket.
AutoZone has to protect its reputation and that of its brake parts by selecting only the best suppliers to bid for their sizeable demand. Their brake parts are sold with a limited lifetime warranty that will give buyers the peace of mind that the parts will be replaced or refunded in the event of a product-related failure.
AutoZone offers their brake parts in different levels of quality according to the good, better, best principle. Five levels of quality and pricing are offered on their brake parts, namely:
1. Duralast Brakes (Standard)
The standard Duralast range is the lowest priced and offers buyers an inexpensive alternative to OE brake parts. They are similar in performance and durability to the factory-fitted parts and are designed for normal use.
2. Duralast Gold
The Duralast Gold range of brake components is designed to give braking performance similar to OE parts but at a much lower cost but delivering the same braking performance, dust pollution, noise, and vibration to the OE parts. The components are sold with all the required anti-rattle clips, plates, and accessories.
3. Duralast Max
The Durlast Max range of brake components has been designed and manufactured to outperform the OE parts in all aspects. The parts are ideal for users that do heavy-duty towing and require extreme performance. The brake pads have brake liner compounds that provide better braking while generating less dust and noise.
4. Duralast Elite
The range-topping Duralast Elite of braking components offers the best choice in the range and is premium priced. The performance is equivalent to what is available on luxury sedans. The copper-free ceramic brake liner compound provides quiet, efficient braking. The backing plates and other hardware are corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
5. Duralast GT Street
The Duralast GT Street Carbon Fiber range of brake pads is made from carbon-ceramic friction material and is corrosion-free. The durability and braking performance are superior to ceramic pads. As a NASCAR sponsor, AutoZone has used racing as a product development platform to test the performance and durability of its components in the most arduous conditions.
The Duralast GT Street Carbon Fiber range of braking components is only available on a selected model range and is premium priced. This range is ideal for extremophiles participating in high-speed racing and off-roading.
To illustrate the different pricing tiers between the Duralast Standard, Duralast Gold, and Duralast Elite ranges, the rear brake pads for a 2018 Toyota Camry 2.5 LE were put into the AutoZone parts search engine. The following parts and pricing were obtained:
Duralast Brake Pads D1212 @ $34.99
Duralast Gold Brake Pads D1212 @ $51.99
Duralast Elite Brake Pads D1212 @ $66.49
No pricing for the OE part from a US-based Toyota dealer was available online. The Toyota dealer website required VIN details and personal details and would only communicate via e-mail. Why make it so difficult when you have nothing to hide?
Why Are OE Brands Against Aftermarket Suppliers Like AutoZone?
Vehicle manufacturers have been in a fight for their lives for the past fifty years. The US Big Three had to weather the storm of the Japanese brands in the 1970s, the Europeans in the 1980s, the Korean brands in the 2000s, and more recently, the influence of the Chinese. Numerous financial crises and bailouts by US taxpayers were needed to keep the US Automakers alive.
The existential threat posed by financial viability to all carmakers has led to them trying to prevent competition from aftermarket suppliers getting free access to their customer cars and the parts demand. The OE industry tried through regulations to limit access to the lucrative parts market but overplayed their hand by overcharging customers for OE parts.
In reality, very few parts were still being manufactured by the Auto giants. They are simply assembly operations of parts sourced globally and mostly from China, Japan, and Korea. The vehicle manufacturers engaged their marketing muscle to put the aftermarket parts industry in a bad light. This content belongs to moc.sotuaytsur. The Right to Repair Act was widely accepted in most developed markets to force automakers to give the vehicle owners more choice to select where to buy parts and service their vehicles.
The last threat to the industry is converting to Zero-Emission mobility by 2050 to reverse climate change. The demise of many industry dinosaurs will play out in the market over the next thirty years. Electric Vehicles have very few services and replacement parts when compared to Internal Combustion Engine vehicles.
The big manufacturers like GM, Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen are in a race to convert their aging infrastructure and technology to serve the EV market. New players like Telsa and BYD do not have the legacy baggage and are setting the pace of the EV revolution.
The automotive landscape and the related service industry will transform entirely over the coming decades. Vehicle ownership and service models will change from private ownership towards leasing, rental, and mobility-on-demand services. The end of the dinosaurs will not be pretty.
The Duralast brake part range sold exclusively via the AutoZone distribution network is very good. The Duralast parts are available at different pricing levels to cater to budget buyers and specialty users alike.
OE branded parts are often manufactured by the same suppliers, but they are marked differently to try and confuse the market. Only buy OE parts if you have exhausted all opportunities to buy aftermarket service and repair parts.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.