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The beauty of our European vehicles is the thought and engineering put into them. Each piece of your BMW or Mercedes is designed and revised more than a handful of times before the perfect iteration is found. That level of care extends around the car from the interior to the suspension and even the drivetrain. We see that reflected in the asking price of our favorite models, new and old. Entry prices vary depending on age and model, but they’re typically more than an equivalent Asian or American-built vehicle. We pay for what we get, and that’s often worth it in European vehicle terms.

That pricing, unfortunately, also extends to the parts we buy. All of that engineering and fussing over minute details carries over to replacement parts we need to service our vehicles and keep them on the road. However, expensive parts aren’t a new concept, as it’s been the accepted price of European vehicle ownership. But what if I told you that you didn’t have to feed the family instant noodles and hotdogs for a week just to fix the AIRMATIC system on your E550. Instead of watching the parts guy at your local dealer drain your checking account for some parts with a Mercedes logo on them, you can get the same exact parts without the logo for less. All you have to do is buy OE or OEM.


What are OE and OEM?

If you’ve bought any car parts before, especially from us, I’m sure that you’ve seen the terms and labels “Genuine,” “OE,” and “OEM” plastered all over the site. They are separate subgroups of parts based on the supplier. Genuine is fairly self-explanatory in that it comes directly from the automaker. It has their logo on the box, their name on the part, and is the exact piece you would receive had you gone directly to a dealership. On the other hand, OE and OEM are just a series of letters stuck onto a product. So what do they mean? 


Well, OE stands for Original Equipment. Automakers don’t produce all of the parts used in their vehicles, contrary to what many may believein fact, they hardly make any of them. Typically, they’ll work with parts manufacturers like ZF, Corteco, TRW, ATE, and Lemfoerder, to design and engineer the parts for a given model. The parts manufacturers then produce them and send them to whoever makes the vehicles. The extra parts get sent to dealerships in vehicle-branded boxes and are considered Genuine parts. However, the parts manufacturers also cut out the automakers and sell them with their own logo. Because they’re the producers of the original parts, they get labeled as Original Equipment. There is not a speck of difference between Genuine and OE besides the name and logo on the box.  See for yourself:

fcpeuro-oe-vs-genuine-coolant-hoseGenuine vs OE: Can you spot the difference between these two coolant hoses?

OEM is very similar to OE in that it stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. While that sounds like a lesson in semantics, there are some distinct differences. Chiefly, OEM parts are made by a company that makes original parts for a vehicle maker but whose parts weren’t originally fitted. Confused? I don’t blame you, so here’s an example: Delphi makes ignition coils for BMW, and they’re installed on the vehicles at the factory. Bosch makes spark plugs for BMW and the licensing to produce the same ignition coils as Delphi. They’re the same part with the same specifications and made with the same materials, but the manufacturer is different. Delphi is the OE part because that’s what BMW used at the factory, and Bosch is OEM because they make other OE parts for BMW. 


Genuine vs OE: Can you spot the difference between these two sensors?


Are There Other Kinds Of Parts?

Of course, there are! Aftermarket and Performance are the other common classes of parts that we offer. Those are distinctly different from Genuine, OE, and OEM, as an original supplier does not make them, and the part’s designs can be modified in the name of performance or cost savings. That may sound like the way to go, but cheaper isn’t always better.

Aftermarket parts quality can go one of two ways: bad or good, and that’s down to the company producing them. The parts suppliers not connected to a manufacturer don't have to produce their parts to the same quality as an OE supplier, which can end with a cheap product that fits poorly and doesn’t last you. Conversely, an aftermarket supplier that cares about what they produce and puts genuine effort into their product can offer a legitimate alternative at a reasonable price. We only carry the latter kind of supplier and are proud to support those companies. 

The same goes for the companies producing alternative Performance parts. OE parts are perfect for a stock vehicle, but modifications can push performance beyond their designed limits. FCP Euro is full of performance-minded enthusiasts with multiple grassroots-championship winning drivers as employees, so it’s safe to say we understand the drive to go faster more reliably. It’s that very reason we offer products from companies like 034 Motorsports, Ohlins, do88, and Bilstein, among others. Their track records show that their performance and reliability benefits outweigh any cost increase. 


It’s Not A Joke; I’m Being Genuine

Buying Genuine parts is always a guarantee that they’ll fit your application, assuming the parts associate gave you the correct one. But OE and OEM parts essentially are no different. OE parts are identical to Genuine parts, and OEM is often as identical as it can be. If the OEM isn’t identical, it’s likely a good reason. Automakers send out technical service bulletins and recalls when a part or parts are found to be sub-par after consumer use. The components are then updated and fitted to the vehicles serviced at the dealership. Those updated parts are then the only ones produced, superseding the original design. In that case, they’re better than the original and will fit just as the original parts did. Of course, the updated parts will also be available as Genuine parts. 

fcpeuro-oe-vs-genuine-engine-mountsGenuine vs OE: Can you spot the difference between these two guibos?

So the real benefits come down to cost and availability. These aren’t the easiest times on anyone, so keeping the budget tight allows for greater financial safety down the road—and that’s the beauty of OE/OEM parts. There aren’t any middlemen like the vehicle manufacturers to increase the price of parts just to make some profit off of them. Parts manufacturers can sell the same products for a significantly reduced rate. There is no risk or fuss, just the right parts, with a Lifetime Replacement Guarantee, at a more affordable cost. 

Availability is a bit more circumstantial. “Supply chain” is a very hot-button topic right now, with just about every company, regardless of product or service facing shipping and logistic nightmares. Automotive parts are no exception, so going after a more available part makes sense if you can’t or don’t want to wait. Genuine parts are OE parts made only by whichever supplier originally produced them. Those suppliers have requirements to deliver a specific amount of parts to the dealer, leaving less of their OE-branded parts for consumers. In a pre-pandemic world, that wasn’t an issue, but now with increased shipping times, a lack of materials, and constant labor shortages, suppliers have to hit their quotas with automakers, leaving less for us. OEM parts don’t have the requirement of being stamped with an automaker’s logo, so every part made is for the consumer. 

Both Aftermarket and Performance parts are resigned to the same supply chain dilemmas as everyone else, too. Bigger companies with deeper pockets and more significant responsibilities have better access to the materials required for parts than the smaller Aftermarket and Performance parts suppliers. The likelihood an OE supplier has parts in stock these days is greater than any Aftermarket or Performance parts company. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for every situation, but it’s the reality of the current global climate and one we’re trying to navigate for you. We know how important it is to have the right parts at the right time, and these days OE/OEM parts have the best chance of being available.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that you have a quality product that’s going to help you get your vehicle back to its best. All of the parts we carry are from suppliers we know offer quality goods, no matter their classification, and we’re proud to offer our Lifetime Replacement Guarantee with them. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along on the DIY Blog for more daily content! 

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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.

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