An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) may have one of two different meanings, often depending on the industry context. In regards to automobile vehicles, the term refers to a manufacturer that certifies that the installation of vehicle components has taken place under its direct supervision, and is covered by its warranty. In other cases, the original equipment manufacturer may refer to the company that makes a component, or even an entire device, for a brand name product.
In the case of motor vehicles, the original equipment manufacturer is likely going to be the make of the vehicle. For example, Honda, Ford and General Motors are all original equipment manufacturers. For vehicles, determining the original manufacturer for the equipment is a relatively straightforward process, but other products may be much harder.
If a consumer is considering appliances, for example, the original equipment manufacturer could produce products for more than one brand. This makes it more confusing for consumers, who may not understand what creates the different pricing points. Further, some parts may be produced by an entirely different manufacturer, such as the compressors in refrigerators. This makes it important to do research, and determine what part the owner of the product is concerned with and who made it.
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It may be important to determine who the original equipment manufacturer is for a number of different reasons. In some cases, a consumer needs this information in order to understand who to go to if there is a claim on a warranty. It may also be important to determine the original equipment manufacturer in cases where there is a need to find replacement parts, even after the warranty expires. Though secondary parts may work, using such parts could void other sections of the warranty, or cause other problems down the road.
From a consumer-based standpoint, it is also important to determine who the original equipment manufacturer is so that the consumer can accurately compare different products. While the brand name may be important for some people, it could be that the same manufacturer is making devices for two different companies. The only difference, in such cases, may be in the name on the product. Some consumers may find this information helpful when doing comparison shopping.
If there are no replacement parts available from the original equipment manufacturer, then at least having that knowledge will help determine what secondary market parts should be used. This is important so that consumers or repair shops can choose the best products available to keep a device, or vehicle, working properly. Without this knowledge, it becomes much more difficult to determine what parts are needed.