Genuine vs. OEM vs. OE? What's the Difference?
If you’ve spent any amount of time tinkering with your build or performing your own routine maintenance, chances are while shopping for parts you have come across the terms Genuine, OE, OEM, and Aftermarket. What do these terms mean? Do they really make a difference? Is it worth spending more money on the genuine part?
In this blog post we will go over what each term means, and why it is important to know the difference when performing maintenance on your Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or any vehicle for that matter.
What are Genuine Parts?
First things first, replacement parts labeled genuine are just that: genuine parts directly from the vehicle manufacturer. These parts will be stamped with the manufacturer logo, whether it be Audi, BMW, or any other, and will typically be the priciest option when it comes to replacing a part on your vehicle. Genuine parts are the exact part you would find on your vehicle off the showroom floor, and are commonly sold over the counter at dealerships. There’s definitely nothing wrong with opting for a genuine part when performing maintenance on your car, as these parts are exactly what the manufacturer of the vehicle itself used when assembling it at the factory.
What are OE Parts?
While Genuine parts may be stamped with an Audi, VW or BMW logo, they are often manufactured by a third party business known as 'Original Equipment' manufacturers.
In addition to making parts for VW/Audi and BMW for brand new vehicles on the showroom floor, these manufacturers will also make the same parts and remove the Audi logo and branding to sell them outside of the dealer network. The logo must be removed due to licensing restrictions, but sometimes these parts will still include the logo from the manufacturer such as Bosch, Hella, Pagid etc. Since this manufacturer created the parts that come on the vehicle from the factory, these parts are dubbed ‘Original Equipment’ or OE. These are the same parts that are fitted on the vehicle directly from the factory, but they lack the VW/Audi or BMW branding.
Think of OE as the company that made the parts for VW/Audi or BMW selling the parts on their own. Since these parts are sold directly from the manufacturer, they are typically less expensive than genuine parts.
What are OEM Parts?
OEM parts, also known as ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’ parts are very similar to genuine and OE parts, but are never originally fitted on the vehicle from the factory. OEM parts are built by a different manufacturer that creates and supplies at least one other part directly to a vehicle manufacturer for another make and model.
Think of these as replacement parts built by another company using the specifications from the vehicle manufacturer. OEM parts are for all intents and purposes the same part as genuine and OE, but they are not the exact parts that were outfitted on the vehicle in the factory, and are created by a different manufacturer than the one that made the genuine parts.
Marking something as OEM is a way to show that the part is made by a trusted manufacturer that makes an OE/Genuine part for at least one other make and model. For a quick hypothetical example, Hella may create the headlights that go directly in one vehicle from the factory, and produce replacement fog lights for a different make or model that aren't installed from the factory. The headlights are an OE part and the fog lights are an OEM part.
A Hypothetical Example
This can all be a bit confusing so here is a quick hypothetical breakdown:
Audi hires Bosch to make a MAP Sensor for them.
Bosch makes the part and includes the Audi logo on the part. This part is used when the vehicle is assembled at the factory. This is a GENUINE Audi part. It is sold as an Audi branded part at dealerships, and you will pay a premium.
Bosch then takes a portion of these MAP sensors and removes the Audi logo (and may include the Bosch logo), and sells either direct to consumer or via other retail channels. This is an OE ‘Original Equipment’ part because it is the same as the ‘genuine’ part, aside from the lack of Audi logo.
Now, another company also makes this MAP Sensor for Audi, but their sensors are not installed from the Audi factory, and carry their own logo. This MAP Sensor is built to the same specifications as genuine, but was technically never used on the Audi vehicle when being built at the factory. However, this company does make at least one other OE/Genuine part for some other make and model. This is known as an OEM or ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’ part, due to the fact that this manufacturer creates the original equipment for some other car, so you can trust they know what they are doing.
Now, a third party company has decided to manufacture the MAP Sensor, but changes the design slightly for the purpose of performance benefits or cost savings. This is known as an AFTERMARKET part. Aftermarket parts are not associated with the vehicle manufacturer, and quality can vary widely from brand to brand, so it is important to do your research when buying aftermarket parts. Every aftermarket company we carry at UroTuning meets our quality standards and we are proud to stand behind the brands we offer.
All in all, OE and OEM parts are a great way to save a bit of money when doing maintenance on your vehicle. It never hurts to splurge on genuine parts if you prefer the vehicle manufacturer logo be there, but for most applications OE and OEM are perfect for replacing a worn out part. OE parts are exactly the same as genuine parts, and OEM parts are built to the exact same specifications.
Hopefully this breakdown helped you understand the differences between genuine, OE, OEM, and aftermarket parts for your vehicle. Feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions. We are always here to help you with your build!