Is OE Glass Really Necessary, or are Aftermarket Products a Solid Alternative?
By Tara Taffera
When it comes to original equipment (OE) and aftermarket glass, car makers are clear: When performing replacements, OE glass should be used. Even if the aftermarket version is manufactured to the same tolerances, it doesn’t matter: their position statements set certain expectations. Yet, these guidelines can still be confusing for auto glass companies when ordering replacement glass, as you will see in the following position statements.
For example, officials for Nissan say the company does not support the use of aftermarket or recycled glass in a repair situation [meaning replacement]. But they go on to say, “If an aftermarket windshield is unavoidable in a repair situation, please be sure it meets the same specifications and similar quality to the OEM windshield being replaced.” With language like that, it is no wonder that confusion arises. AGRR talked to glass manufacturers and distributors, and broke down each car makers position statement. We also looked at how this all relates to the process of filing insurance claims.
A “Clear” Position
It’s important to look at the Position Statements provided by each car maker. (The full statements can be found on the website for each individual company.)
Audi: In a memo dated August 30, 2013, the car maker issued the following Position Statement of Repair for Windshield and Glass Replacement. “Audi auto glass plays an important role in the safety of the vehicle by providing structural rigidity, ocular clarity and integration with advanced vehicle technologies including adaptive cruise control, lane assist and heads-up display. Audi of America recommends the use of original equipment glass for replacement and Audi of America procedures for repair and replacement.”
Honda: In a memo revised in June 2018, Honda Motor Co. issued a memo with the subject line: Driver Assist/Safety Systems May Fail Unless OE Parts Used. “Collision repair technicians must be aware of issues that may be created if other than original equipment parts are used to repair [i.e. replace glass in] vehicles with these systems. While
aftermarket parts may look the same and fit in the same physical space on the vehicle, their use may present unforeseen circumstances causing the driver assist or other safety systems to operate abnormally, or not at all.”
Regarding windshield replacement, the statement reads, “The windshield is specially designed to correctly project the HUD image and must be replaced by a HUD windshield. Installing anything other than an original equipment windshield may result in the HUD appearing as a double image. There is no visual difference between an OE HUD windshield and a non-HUD windshield … To ensure the correct replacement windshield is installed, provide the vehicle’s VIN when ordering parts. Installing anything other than an original equipment windshield may cause this system to work improperly.”
Mopar: Mopar issued a position statement on November 20, 2019 related to glass replacement for its brands, including Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram and SRT. “Only authentic Mopar Glass is designed, engineered, manufactured and tested to the FCA US LLC and government-mandated standards and is the only equivalent to the originally installed glass. FCA US LLC does not approve of or recognize glass replacement procedures where authentic Mopar parts are not used … Any repairs performed not using Mopar Replacement Glass and not following published repair guidelines [meaning replacement] and procedures may expose current or future vehicle owners and occupants to unnecessary risk.”
The statement also clarifies that if the windshield is equipped with a forward-facing camera, the camera must be recalibrated after the windshield has been installed. Finally, the Mopar guidance concludes with a paragraph highlighted in bold which states, “Aftermarket glass manufacturers may represent their products as Original Equipment Equivalent or OEE. No supplier is authorized to utilize FCA US LLC tooling, test equipment or intellectual property in the development or production of aftermarket glass. Aftermarket windshields and mouldings are often made with materials that do not adhere to FCA US LLC performance standards.”
Mercedes-Benz: “Genuine Mercedes-Benz replacement glass is manufactured to tolerances based on the original design,” says the Mercedes-Benz Position Statement Regarding Glass and Glazing. “Choosing authentic Mercedes-Benz glass ensures proper fitment, visual clarity, windshield wiper performance, and the overall integrity of your vehicle. Aftermarket variants do not meet the exacting specifications of genuine Mercedes-Benz glass.”
The statement also details various properties of the glass, including UV protection, for example, that are not present in aftermarket variations. “Glass components are also often a part of the vehicle structural assembly. Using factory-authored removal and replacement procedures, including the use of advanced adhesives specific to each model, help ensure that the car is operating at its best.”
Nissan: Nissan’s Position Statement, dated June 20, 2016, regarding windshield and glass replacement says genuine Nissan auto glass plays an important role in the safety of the vehicle by providing structural rigidity, ocular clarity and integration with advanced vehicle technology. “For these reasons, Nissan North America does not support the use of aftermarket or recycled glass in a repair [i.e. replacement] situation. If an aftermarket windshield is unavoidable in a repair situation, please be sure it meets the same specifications and similar quality to the OEM windshield being replaced.”
Subaru: Subaru of America released a position statement on the Use of Aftermarket Windshield Glass for Subaru Vehicles Equipped with Eyesight, dated May 2017. “The original equipment parts used to build Subaru vehicles are specifically engineered to provide maximum safety, optimal fit and functionality to help maintain the highest standard of vehicle structural integrity,” the statement reads.
“If windshield replacement is necessary for a Subaru vehicle equipped with Eyesight, we strongly recommend that Subaru genuine windshield glass specifically designed for EyeSight always be used. Only Subaru genuine windshield glass has been tested and certified by Subaru to effectively work with the EyeSight system. If windshield glass other than the glass specially designed for EyeSight is used, visibility of the camera may be compromised or any distortion in the glass may prevent the correct measurement of an object, either of which would result in improper or incorrect Eyesight operation.”
Additionally, if windshield glass replacement is performed on a Subaru vehicle equipped with EyeSight, calibration is required after the windshield is replaced.
Volvo: Volvo’s statement on the replacement of windshields, issued in October 2018, provides lengthy guidance including the fact that “Volvo Car USA LLC requires all windshield replacements on Volvo vehicles be performed according to Volvo standards at an authorized Volvo facility using only Volvo Genuine windshields and adhesives.”
“Due to many variants of aftermarket windshields available, it cannot be verified these windshields are being manufactured to exact Volvo specifications,” reads the statement. “When windshield replacement is needed, Volvo requires using only Volvo Genuine Windshield and installation materials, so as not to compromise any structural integrity, nor any Volvo safety systems that are dependent on the windshield, such as optical, distance and radar based systems.”
Volvo also asserts that “proper installation of a Volvo Genuine Windshield through a Volvo Facility ensures proper recalibration as well as operations of the windshield dependent safety systems and provides the correct structural integrity during a collision.
Breaking it down simply, OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM auto glass is fabricated by the same manufacturer that provided the original glass the automaker placed in a vehicle, and may also be referred to as OE glass, in accordance with the same specifications. OEM glass also has special automaker branding on it. Aftermarket auto glass (also referred to as ARG) is made by a company other than the original equipment manufacturer, or by the same OEM company on a different production line. (For more on these definitions go to www.glass.com and click on the info center then the glass dictionary. This is also a great place to send your customers who have questions.)
Auto glass shops know, however, that it’s not quite so simple. For example, many of the glass manufacturers that make OE glass for auto makers, also make aftermarket glass. Distributors likes Mygrant carry both types.
“We distribute OEM branded glass and close to 75% of our inventory is associated with the manufacturers that we buy from that are OEM and have a relationship with the car makers,” says Paul Anaya, Mygrant vice president of sales and marketing. “For example, one of the many brands we deal with is Fuyao and they have a strong OEM presence
with Ford and [General Motors], and they have a strong aftermarket. So it’s an OEM brand name.”
Adding to confusion, many in the industry also use terms such as dealer and non-dealer glass. Paul McFarland, senior director, supply chain management for Third Party Administrator LYNX Services, defines dealer glass as one having a car manufacturer part number sold through that manufacturer at a certain price point. “Most dealership part systems have a dealer list price for a dealer part,” he says.
Anaya breaks it down this way: dealer glass is made specifically for the car manufacturers, is made on an OEM line, and has the dealer logo. “They are both press bent,” he says. “The process is exactly the same.”
Vitro is another supplier who makes glass for both markets, and Jim Ricci, business development manager, US ARG says, “the company follows the specific industry standards to maintain safety and quality for both our automotive customers and our replacement glass network.”
Finally, just when you thought you had it all figured out, there is another term to throw in the mix—OEE, or Original Equipment Equivalent.
Anaya again uses Fuyao as an example. “This glass that is made by FYG is OEM equivalent,” he says. “It’s manufactured in a factory that has a relationship with a car manufacturer with a brand name. OE equivalent means it is high quality and made in the same way–same mold, and also press bent.”
If you are still confused Anaya explains it further, and as is often the case, there are always caveats. “It’s kind of interesting when you talk about Ford or [General Motors],” says Anaya. “If you go to a Ford dealer and you look at a Ford Explorer it will say Ford and Carlex but the DOT number will be FYG. So what they are saying is, ‘We recommend when you replace this glass you use a brand that is OEM equivalent.’”
Now that you the auto glass professional is set on OEM, ARG, OEE and the like, how do you explain it all to the customer?
Customers and Calibration
The experts to whom we spoke agreed that the customer typically has the final say—that is if they even know there is a difference.
“We want to deliver what our customers want,” says Anaya. “Sometimes it depends on the vehicle— for a brand new BMW they want an OEM glass. The guy with the 1960 Chevy truck is not that interested in an OEM brand however we still provide him with OEM quality.”
Carlos Bernal, vice president and general manager for Vitro ARG Business, points out that “many may not even know there is a choice.” For Vitro, the same principles apply, whether it is OE or ARG.
“Vitro ensures that the glass we provide meets the stringent safety requirements as well performance and aesthetic requirements,” he says. “Whether the glass is for our OE customers or our ARG customers, we go to great lengths to maintain quality. This is especially important as technologies such as ADAS evolve and glass quality is the key to proper performance. When a driver needs to replace their glass, they do have to make a decision about whether to replace the glass with OE glass or what is supplied by the installer.”
As ADAS continues to expand making re-calibration a necessity, this makes the issue even more confusing for some.
“OEMs are continually adding more and more Advanced Driver Assistance Systems that are integral to the safe function of the vehicle,” adds Ricci. “The precise and proper calibration of these systems is critical, so the OEMs are taking their position for liability. OEM’s do not want to take responsibility for the function of the vehicle if they do not have control of the replacement parts and calibration. The aftermarket has done a good job putting in the calibration systems to insure proper function when an aftermarket product is installed.”
Anaya reminds shop owners that just because there is an issue doesn’t mean it’s the glass—whether it’s OE or aftermarket. “An installer may say ‘This won’t calibrate–it must be the brand,’” says Anaya. “But more times than not it’s a mirror bracket that’s off.”
How Insurance Plays a Role
Just as shop owners need to take installation issues such as those mentioned here into account, they have to consider insurance factors as well. McFarland’s work at LYNX Services includes serving as glass program manager for some insurance companies. He explains how all this plays into the claims process.
“For our role as glass program manager, we follow the rules that are established for all our insurance clients,” he says. “Each one may have different processes.” He further explains that most dealership part systems have a dealer list price for a dealer part.
“Insurance companies, generally, will either authorize a dealer glass part at dealer list or they may only authorize up to the amount of their glass program price for the equivalent NAGS part based on the NAGS list price,” he says. “It depends on the policy language.”
Again, each case is not always clear as individual manufacturers have different requirements and procedures. “Almost every transaction has the potential to be unique or different than the previous,” McFarland says. He too affirms that it is the vehicle owner who makes the final decision—however, the auto glass shop owner plays a huge role in the decision-making process.
“The professionals in the auto glass segments make the decisions as to what products they buy and they explain those differences [between OEM and aftermarket glass] to vehicle owners,” McFarland adds.
Going back to those position statements, Bernal summarizes this way: “In general, OEMs recommend their own parts for replacement because that’s what the vehicle was designed to use,” he says. “It’s also required for maintaining a proper warranty on the vehicle, so it’s more than likely something that is merely extended to stating this about glass as well. Again, ADAS systems are likely a significant driver for these statements as well,
which makes perfect sense.”
Tara Taffera is the editorial director for AGRR magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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