Jim Sherman is founder and owner of Sherman Auto Parts in Washington, Michigan. This article first appeared on the website mlive.com.
By Jim Sherman
While the car companies alternately announce unprecedented earnings growth and record-breaking numbers of vehicle recalls, lawmakers in Lansing are set to pass legislation that would put more money in the automakers’ pockets while increasing costs for consumers and crippling Michigan small businesses. An amended House Bill 4344, updating motor vehicle repair laws, would legislate the types of collision replacement parts that can be used to repair vehicles five years old and newer.
My family business in Macomb County has come a long way since 1981, when I began ordering hard-to-find parts to rebuild my 1970 Road Runner Superbird and discovered an entire market in the U.S. looking for the same sorts of parts. Today, we and other aftermarket parts distributors across the state supply high-quality, lower-priced aftermarket parts for vehicles of all ages. HB 4344 is moving quickly and quietly through the Legislature and threatening my business and others like it.
HB 4344, which passed the Senate on Tuesday, gives preferential treatment to car company parts while making it illegal for body shops to install most of the aftermarket parts currently available on the market today. Language in the bill requires any aftermarket part used to be verified by a nationally recognized automotive parts testing agency. The aftermarket employs quality assurance programs for many of our parts, but it’s an intensive process and only a small percentage of aftermarket parts available are third-party certified. Furthermore, while the automakers’ replacement parts typically aren’t manufactured by the car companies; there is no certification process for their replacement parts.
Shops like mine aren’t the only losers; consumers lose out too. The aftermarket industry maintains high standards of quality and safety while providing another benefit that is extremely important to most Americans and most Michiganders I know — ensuring that a lower-cost option is available in the marketplace while helping keep the prices of car companies replacement parts lower too. HB 4344 will create a virtual monopoly for the automakers, since the alternative is more expensive car company parts. As a result, consumers lose the choice to decide which parts they will use, and they lose money.
Even worse, Michigan already suffers from the highest insurance rates in the nation. Requiring the use of more expensive car company parts will only make premiums more expensive.
My business thrives on competition and the car companies seem to be doing okay too. Lawmakers shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, and they certainly shouldn’t be legislating market share for the automakers on the backs of Michigan small businesses and Michigan’s consumers. As the owner of a family business that employs over 40 people and takes great pride in providing high-quality parts at much lower prices than the car companies to customers across our state, I hope that our state leaders will see the light and remove this amendment.