Developing OEM Car Accessories Is A Lot More Complicated Than You Thought

Summary

  • OEMs like Toyota and Volkswagen are expanding their accessory programs, allowing customers to personalize their vehicles at the point of purchase.
  • Car accessories are influenced by factors such as vehicle type, customer segment, and trends like overlanding and outdoor lifestyles.
  • OEMs have strict standards and conduct extensive testing to ensure the quality and durability of their accessories, which are designed to match the original specifications of the vehicle.


Accessories can completely change the look of the car, and they are more popular than ever. They vary wildly in range, from a floor mat to a bike rack, a multimedia stereo, or even a high-tech rearview mirror. Simply put, accessories are an extension of oneself. and are easier than ever to change on a whim, or you can get into bigger projects such as bumpers, fenders, seats, shocks, or struts.

But it occurred to us that for these things to be sold at dealerships with a warranty and, you know, not fall off your car, there must be a whole development and engineering process to ensure they meet the same standards as a windshield and not kill anyone. To find out more, we talked to people at Toyota and Volkswagen who actually work on them, and found out there’s a lot more to it than you’d think.


I Hear “OEM” Often, But What Exactly Is An OEM?

David Traver Adolphus / TopSpeed

Before OEMs wow you with accessories, let’s understand exactly what the industry term “OEM” means. An Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is an integral part of products being produced by another manufacturer. This means another company can sell products made by a company under their own name. They work very closely together on these products that we all use on a daily basis.

These parts pair well with your vehicle, too, as they are made to the same standard and specifications as the original, and will function accordingly.

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OEMs like Toyota refer to these car accessories as AAP, Associated Accessory Products. In 2022, Toyota and Lexus showcased their new AAP program at the SEMA show. They noted, “The new program will bring third-party accessory brands into the vehicle purchase process to broaden and streamline the ways customers can accessorize their Toyota and Lexus vehicles at the point of purchase. This will also add on-and off-road accessories to the already robust portfolio of genuine Toyota and Lexus accessories available to consumers across both companies’ model lineups.”

How OEMs Choose Which Accessories To Develop

“There are a lot of variables that go into the decision-making process for car accessories,” said Robert Gal, Senior Accessories Manager for Volkswagen of America. “How things evolve on the equipment of a particular vehicle, if a vehicle is already well-equipped, we develop fewer items, sporty vehicles, we will focus on sportier items and on life-style family vehicles we focus on comfort, protection and items relevant to those customers.”

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Toyota has two product channels for car and bike accessories,” said Dave Brannon, Senior Manager of Accessory Planning, “Genuine and Associated Accessory Products (the aforementioned AAP). These two different product channels have two distinctly different development and testing procedures. Genuine products can be pre-installed by Toyota at our plants and port locations. AAP is for dealer or customer installation only.” He also explained that when choosing car accessories, they survey their dealers, competitors and enthusiast blogs and/or boards on the internet.

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Overlanding And Outdoor Lifestyle Has Been Driving Factory Accessory Development

VW rooftop accessories
David Traver Adolphus / TopSpped


When asked why the increase and demand for car accessories in recent years, Volkswagen’s Gal noted the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, when Overlanding exploded. The term refers to traveling to remote destinations over land by virtue of off-roading and camping. (Thus the popularity of the rooftop tents). Gal added that “The demand for car accessories is due to comfort, style, adventure, and people just having the desire to personalize their cars.

It also varies by “customer segment,” remarked Gal. “A compact SUV may add accessories for versatility in transporting your stuff and giving more room; in a full-size SUV it may be making travel easier for my nucleus family, and for a sports car, maybe it is just for personalization and making me look different from the other GTIs or Golf Rs.”

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Keeping with what accessories are a popular topic, Gal points out that products in demand for VWs are Monster Mats and the HomeLink ConnectMirror. Monster Mats, are high quality all-season mats for protecting your vehicle’s carpet from the elements, sold as a set of four and with your vehicle’s logo, will run $140. The HomeLink Connect® Mirror features a frameless design, electronic compass, and auto-dimming functionality for your driving convenience. The HomeLink Connect® buttons will operate most home garage door openers and cost less than $300.

Toyota focuses on many well-known and respected accessory brands for off-roading. For overlanders, these accessories include rooftop tents and camp refrigerators. Rock crawlers will find high-performance fog lights, air compressor kits, and rock sliders to ready their trucks for action. For outdoor adventure athletes, ski and bike racks are also available.

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Car Accessories Are Ever Evolving

Accessories are ever evolving, and so changes are made to accessories as products change. If a watersports device/ride or bicycle changes (like the rise of E-bikes), then obviously, the accessories do as well. For example, VW has seen changes in bike racks, from hanging bike racks, to platform bike racks to ramps for E-bikes. Some things are sold as kits, others à la carte.


Ford Mach e with e bike mount
David Traver Adolphus / TopSpeed

OEMs Have To Write Their Own Standards For Accessories

So what sort of research and development goes into the making of these products? VW’s Gal assures us that, “There are a set of technical guidelines and quality rules for those products that need to be met; if it’s an innovative product, then we literally have to write the standard, using VW group standards from other markets and try to put together those standards we need to meet. And then on the sourcing side, VW Group has a stringent set of standards that our suppliers need to meet,” says Gal.

These products must meet an extensive battery of performance and durability testing


Toyota’s Dave Brannon stated that, “Genuine products are typically designed specifically for our vehicles with our development engineering guidance. Then these products must meet an extensive battery of performance and durability testing. AAP products are developed by aftermarket suppliers, and our design engineers fit products up from good, well-known brand-name aftermarket products. We fit test, road test, and pick to sell through our dealerships what we feel is the best product for our customers.”

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Brannon reassures that Toyota guidelines are, “Much stricter with higher level requirements than typical aftermarket accessories. Genuine accessories meet all Toyota product guidelines. AAP products meet all USA regulatory requirements.”

So what might be the pros/cons of OEM parts? OEMs feel they are quite competitive on items. While they understand they cannot compete in everything, they do have product lines where they think they can. Products are differentiated by design and sub-brands; brands like Muddy Buddy floor liners, Bumperdillo bumper protectors, Monster Mats, etc. These are family priced, no matter if you are driving a VW GTI or a VW Atlas.

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Who Is Responsible For The Warranty On My Car Accessories?

Thule cargo box
David Traver Adolphus / TopSpeed

And do these products come with a warranty? The parts warranty has to match the warranty of the vehicle. OEM parts will help sustain your vehicle’s warranty. VW says there are also 650 different dealers around the country, so if you move, or if you are traveling, you can take your vehicle to one of them. However, this cost money and so, for this reason, VW recognizes that they may not be the market leader in most cases on many of these accessories.


“So, while there are accessories warrantied by VW,” said Gal, “then other products, say, Thule for example, or other national brands, accessories that are warrantied by the manufacturer. Most of them match our duration of new car limited warranties and some are lifetime warranties. Sometimes you get a better warranty by us selling those national brands.”

A vehicle you may want to especially take note of and see is Volkswagen’s ID. Buzz. Gal mentioned that there are a lot of things to get excited about regarding this vehicle, “Not just because it is making a comeback, not just because it is an EV, but because of how much cool stuff that we can do that we have not been able to engineer or offer in the past.”

A 2025 Volkswagen ID.Buzz LWB on the road
Volkswagen

Accessories Are An Important And Growing Part Of The New Car Business

Car accessories have been in high demand and the market is expected to continue to grow. In the next ten years, the projected growth rate is 5.8% in the U.S. alone, expanding from $252 million in 2023 to $443 million by 2033, according to reports from Future Market Insights. Regardless of the manufacturer, the items you will use every day are going to be your most popularly sold items, with the warranties you are used to getting, so be adventurous, personalize your car to your liking, and put some “Wow” in your whip!