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What Does OEM Actually Mean?

Eric Page - October 10, 2017

ACDelco OEM Parts

ACDelco OEM Parts

Ever wonder what the term OEM actually means? OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer is a bit of a misnomer whose definition has changed over time.

In the past, an OEM was defined as a company who manufactured products that were then used as components in another company's product. Often, an OEM works hand-in-hand with the company that ultimately sells the finished object or goods.

Today the term OEM is used to describe a company that buys a product (from a third party) and then integrates or re-brands it into a new product during assembly or construction. Typically, the part is marketed under the company's own name while the warranty, support and licensing is offered for the product.

To be clear, when someone is looking to purchase OEM parts, it does not mean that the part was made by the manufacturer. It also means that vehicle dealerships are not the sole source for original parts for your car, truck, motorcycle or boat. In most cases, parts you get from a dealership can be purchased cheaper elsewhere. If you do some research online, you can determine who originally manufactured the parts you might need. Often, you can find a less expensive version of the same part, re-branded in different packaging.

In contrast, an aftermarket part is any part for a vehicle that is not sourced from the manufacturer of the vehicle. Usually, if an aftermarket part is a direct replacement for an OEM part, it should not void your vehicle's warranty. In many cases, aftermarket parts are as good and in some cases even better than the original OEM parts.

Popular OEM parts suppliers include: AC Delco, Motorcraft, Bosch, Autolite and Mopar.

Motorcraft OEM Parts

Motorcraft OEM Parts

Below is a list of the largest OEMs in terms of sales in the North American marketplace.

  • Delphi Automotive PLC - maker of steering, chassis, electrical; energy, engine and thermal management, interiors, electronic components.
  • Johnson Controls Inc. - maker of seating, overhead systems, door & instrument panels, center & overhead consoles & interior electronics, lead acid & hybrid vehicle batteries.
  • Denso Corp. - maker of thermal, powertrain control, electronic & electric systems, small motors & telecommunications.
  • Magna International Inc. - maker of bodies, chassis, interiors, exteriors, seating, powertrain, electronics, mirrors, closures & roof systems & modules.
  • Lear Corp. - maker of seating & electrical power management systems.
  • Continental AG - maker of electronic & foundation brakes, stability management systems, tires, chassis systems, safety system electronics, telematics, powertrain electronics, interior modules, instrumentation.
  • Robert Bosch GmbH - maker of gasoline systems, diesel systems, chassis system controls, electrical drives, starter motors & generators, car multimedia, electronics, steering systems, battery technology, exhaust gas turbochargers and treatment systems.
  • TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. - maker of steering, suspension, braking & engine components; fasteners, occupant-restraint systems, electronic safety & security systems.
  • ZF Friedrichshafen AG - maker of transmissions, chassis components & systems, steering systems, clutches, dampers.
  • BASF SE - maker of coatings, catalysts, engineered plastics, polyurethanes, coolants, brake fluids, battery materials.
Bosch OEM Parts

Bosch OEM Parts

Finally, checkout AutomotiveOEM.com. They're a publisher of automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) data covering suppliers of parts, components, assemblies, services and technologies comprising the North American manufacturing supply chain. A good source for finding parts manufacturers.