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Genuine, OE, OEM, Aftermarket, Oh My!

Since there are many different interpretations as to what the above terms mean, I will do my best to define them in their relation to the automotive parts industry, and our web catalog, epsparts.com.

In our web catalog the terms GENUINE or OEM will appear next to a part manufacturer name, to help you in making your choice, if one is available. If neither appear then the part is either an Aftermarket or OEM Equivelant manufacturer. There really is not much else to it! Following is a detailed description of what these and other part descriptions mean.

Genuine / OE - Genuine or (OE) Original Equipment is basically the original part used by the car manufacturer on the car when it left the factory. That part could have been made under contract by an OEM supplier, like Bosch, Mann, Hella or other OEM supplier, for instillation on the new car. There are many parts like body panels, brake rotors, interior trim items, etc. that are made in the car manufacturer's own factories, or sometimes factories under contract to produce that product only for the car manufacturer. At epsparts.com we use the term OE interchangeably with the term Genuine. An OE part and a Genuine part will both come in the original car manufacturers packaging, such as Mercedes, BMW, Porsche or whatever the original car brand. An example of a Genuine Porsche part is 996-803-183-09 seat belt lock. You can rest assured that any part labeled "GENUINE" refers to a part supplied by epsparts.com that is the OE part in the vehicle manufacturers packaging. The Genuine part and OE part are equivalent, as described above. Sometimes the OE or Genuine part comes from the OE supplier, like Mercedes, in a multiple unit package, and therefore may not be shipped in that package.

OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer refers to a part that is manufactured by a company like Bosch, Mann, Hella and others under design from the car manufacturer, like Audi, VW, etc. This part is then made available for sale by the OEM manufacturer, but in that manufacturers packaging. In many instances the car manufacturer's part number and logo are removed to prevent copyright infringement. The bottom line here is that the OEM part is the same part as was installed originally (OE) and is equivalent. Many times I will use the term OEM equivalent and this refers to a part that meets the same quality standards as the OEM part. Sometimes what was used as OE on the new car may no longer be the OEM, a good case is Bremi and Bosch ignition products for BMW. I told you it was confusing! An example of an OEM part is this Mercedes heater blower motor 211-830-09-08.

OEM Equivalent - A part that would be considered an OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer Equivalent would be one that is, for instance, an OEM part for one car company say Saab but not for another car company. A good example of this would be an oil filter for a particular Volvo engine is Mann, however the OEM oil filter for a particular Saab is Mahle. Mahle would be an OEM Equivalent oil filter for Volvo and Mann would be an OEM Equivalent oil filter for Saab. The important issue here is the quality of the actual manufacturer, Mann or Mahle being up to the standards to be able to produce an OEM product for ANY car company. That level of quality remains true in all of the products manufactured by that company. Another even more illustrative example would be the same car manufacturer using 2 different companies to produce a product for different models of cars. For instance a particular Porsche model will use a Mahle fuel filter as OEM, and a different model of Porsche would use a Bosch fuel filter as OEM. Both are OEM Equivalent filters, not just for Porsche, but for any car line that may have a part available from Bosch, Mahle, Hengst, Knecht, Mann etc. This kind of information is available in my Product Manufacturer Index for most of the part manufacturers we supply products from. This is an ongoing project, and many are being added and or updated.

Aftermarket - is just that, something that is made by a supplier other than the OE or OEM manufacturer. Unfortunately the quality of aftermarket parts can vary widely. At epsparts.com we do our best to eliminate any aftermarket supplier if their products do not meet our high standards, i.e. are not close to the OE or OEM part in quality, fit and part life with the Genuine or OE part. A good example of high quality aftermarket part is this Volkswagen shock absorber from Bilstein VE3B055HO
Although Bilstein is an OEM suppler to some companies, like Mercedes, it is an aftermarket to VW and Audi, which I would call OEM equivalent or better. Sorry, getting more confused? Many times an Aftermarket part is an improvement over the original like this BMW water pump 888010330.

So why am I taking the time to help clear up the smoke surrounding the terms OE, OEM, OEM Equivalent, Genuine, Aftermarket, etc.? It is because many suppliers in the business do not care if they lie or mislead there customer's by referring to an aftermarket part as an OEM one. I have seen Chinese made brake rotors labeled as OEM in many different web sites and in eBay, especially in eBay!
I am very concerned that my customers receive the highest quality parts at the most reasonable prices. In my quest to accomplish this I need customer feedback regarding their parts experience, whether it came from me or not. Knowledge is power they say, and that knowledge is the power to inform and educate all of use regarding smart choices in keeping our cars in top shape. Please feel free to contact me if you have an experience, good or bad, a tip you want to share, or a recommendation for or against any particular brand or part.
Randy Steele


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