Using Standard Formats ACES and PIES to Communicate Application Fitment

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Using Standard Formats ACES and PIES to Communicate Application Fitment

Businesses in the automotive aftermarket industry are all too aware of the existence and importance of the Auto Care Association’s two main data standards, ACES and PIES. Selling auto parts online is unlike any other industry. Every automotive eCommerce business that deals with auto parts and accessories needs to have a clean and comprehensive fitment data management system. Otherwise, their customers will not be able to find what they are looking for.

For example, the same thing cannot be said about the fashion or lifestyle industries, where people simply go online and browse whatever they are looking for. In the automotive aftermarket industry, customers also need to make sure that the components and accessories they are purchasing will fit their vehicle. It’s important to keep in mind that the majority of auto parts will fit dozens of vehicles. This, in turn, implies that the fitment data used in a business’s auto parts catalog will also need to incorporate everything about those vehicles, such as year, make, and model, as well as relevant information about the components themselves. This will include elements such as trim, engine, transmission, submodel, and more.

This problem mentioned above doesn’t only limit itself to the end-customers looking to buy components for their vehicles. It stretches over the entire supply chain, going from the manufacturer to the distributor, supplier, and retailer. Basically, everyone involved will need to have the same level of accuracy when automotive products are moved down the supply chain. This is where the ACES and PIES standards come into play.

The Auto Care Association

ACES (Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard) and PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard) were created by the Auto Care Association, previously known as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). The organization was first established in July 1999 when the Automotive Parts and Accessories Association (APAA) and the Automotive Service Industry Association (ASIA) came together. In 2014, it formally changed its name to the Auto Care Association (ACA).

Located in Bethesda, MD, the ACA is a not-for-profit trade association with nearly 3,000 members and affiliate companies. In total, it represents over 538,000 automotive aftermarket businesses across the United States that are involved in the manufacture, distribution, retail, and installation of vehicle parts, components, tools, equipment, supplies, and services. Aside from promoting, protecting, and advancing the interests of these businesses, the Auto Care Association is also in charge of the two aforementioned industry data standards, the PIES and ACES.

ACES and PIES Standards

  • ACES Product Data – This is the industry standard used in North America for managing and exchanging automotive catalog application data. Manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers can send and receive information, such as brand, part type, or part number, alongside application fitment data, like make, model, year, submodel, transmission, truck bed length, etc. The ACES standard makes it possible to put together an eCommerce catalog with high-quality, consistent content from thousands of product lines. By using ACES files, suppliers will be able to describe vehicle attributes and configurations with valid database values. All suppliers will also be able to define their products’ terminology with a database of product names. All of this will be possible in a computer-relatable format from the supplier to the receiver.
  • PIES Product Data – Unlike ACES, PIES is used to manage and exchange part number data, product information, images, and other data attributes. PIES will define the format of the data and the valid values used. It’s also used to standardize all field requirements and definitions, as well as the delivery mechanism used to exchange product-specific information between all trading partners in the supply chain. This data may include elements such as pricing, brand ID, product attribute information, kits, interchanges, digital assets, marketing content, warranty data, country of origin, performance, weight, packaging, and more.

Anyone in the automotive aftermarket supply chain, be it manufacturers, shop owners, suppliers, warehouse managers, or even auto part customers, will use ACES product data to see whether a certain component or accessory will fit their vehicle. If it does, they will turn to PIES data to determine if that specific part will satisfy all of their other needs.

It’s also important to mention that ACES and PIES standards allow for mapping to the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb). This is a relational database with 50 unique attributes that presents all vehicle configurations found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Mapping accurately to the VCdb categorizes parts by year, make, and model searches, and it allows the lookup of parts to an application.

The Importance of ACES and PIES Standards in Application Fitment

These two data standards are used together as a means of managing and exchanging digital fitment information and part numbers between all members of the automotive aftermarket supply chain and end-customers. They are also used as a universal guideline for all users to adhere to. One can only imagine what would happen if every car, motorcycle, or Powersports manufacturer would start using their own unique standards when it comes to fitment and compatibility. It would be next to impossible to know if a certain aftermarket component would fit a specific vehicle or not.

Basically, the success of anyone in the aftermarket industry relies on whether their customers will be able to find what they are looking for. This can be achieved automatically by making use of a fitment data management system. By using ACES and PIES simultaneously, users will be able to eliminate the guesswork that goes into ordering auto parts online. If someone is looking for a specific component, the fitment data will automatically display all the compatible parts available in the inventory. This will eliminate all doubts about whether that component or accessory will fit the intended vehicle, improving the overall customer experience. It will also minimize the number of product returns that result from errors during the ordering process.

However, it will need to be regularly maintained and updated. Otherwise, your components will no longer be visible to your customers. The reason for this is that the ACA updates its databases roughly once per month. This presents a significant challenge. If an auto part catalog’s aftermarket data is not kept clean, accurate, and complete, it may be perceived as being an issue with the application.

There’s also the added problem that this data is not provided by the original equipment manufacturers. It’s researched by a group of people from the Auto Care Association that searches the internet and specialized publications, trying to find as many details about the products and vehicles as possible. However, this means that the data will not always be 100% accurate or complete. This means that it’s only a matter of time before any fitment data will “spoil.” As the Auto Care Association updates its database, it will remove certain vehicles and add new vehicle configurations in their stead. If your fitment data is mapped out to those removed vehicles or, by extension, not mapped out to the new configurations, your online customers will not be able to find what they are looking for. In other words, you will have “holes” in your vehicle information.

As such, it needs to be constantly updated and validated, at least once a month, to be kept “clean.” So, whether you are selling aftermarket car parts and accessories, OEM replacement parts, agriculture, or Powersports products, fitment is incredibly important when it comes to auto part sales and your online listings. And for your fitment information to be accurate, it will need to be in sync with the ACES and PIES product data standards. For more information about ACES and PIES, contact us today.