The automotive aftermarket discusses ACES and PIES data standards a lot. Here we define the ACES and PIES product data standards, and reveal how many aftermarket part numbers exist.
Note: for more information on PIES data and how it affects auto parts SEO read this article.
PIES product data standard for product attributes
PIES (short for Product Information Exchange Standard) is the automotive aftermarket industry’s data standard in North America to exchange product information. Aftermarket suppliers publish PIES data for their product line.
Using PIES as a data standard lets a supplier’s entire supply chain can accurately and consistently describe the products.
PIES includes product descriptions, warranty information, hazardous materials if applicable, and pricing.
It also includes features, benefits, product specifications such as dimension and weight, and more.
The newest version of the PIES standard, version 7.2, now includes products for heavy duty vehicles.
The PIES data standard is free for aftermarket companies to use, but related databases require an annual subscription. Subscribers can download files as Access 2007, ASCII, MySQL or SQL Server 2008 R2.
The current PIES standard is version is 7.2 released May 2020.
PCdb product classification database
The Product Classification database (PCdb) is also an industry standard, and defines a standard list of part types and categories, such as “spark plug” for example. The PCdb covers replacement parts, service parts, collision repair parts and aftermarket supplies.
PAdb product attribute database
The Product Attribute database is part of the PIES standard. It includes 20 product categories and describes the fit, form and function of aftermarket products. The PAdb is massive: it includes over 108,000 product attributes in over 12,000 part terminologies, as of March 2020. It also now includes products for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
How many part numbers?
In the entire automotive aftermarket there are approximately 8 million base part numbers. This includes specialty parts and accessories, branded replacement parts and private label replacement parts. A “base” part number is a SKU that doesn’t explode to thousands of additional SKUs via different colors or shapes, for example, automotive carpeting.
“SKU” is short for stock keeping unit.
This 8 million number includes what you might think of as the “SEMA market” as well as the “Auto Care Association market.” Filter the 8 million part numbers down to just the specialty parts and accessories aftermarket and it drops to between 2 and 3 million part numbers, although there will always be some gray area separating a “specialty part” from a “replacement part.” For example, when does a spark plug cross over from an OEM replacement to a performance product? Lots of gray area…
About 50% of those 2 to 3 million parts fit one or more specific year, make or model vehicle application and in some cases they fit a specific submodel, engine or transmission. The other 50% are universal-fit parts for nearly anything like valve stem caps, or parts that fit nothing like tools or car wax.
ACES product data standard for year, make, model vehicle fitment
ACES (short for Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard) is the aftermarket industry’s data standard in North America to exchange and manage automotive aftermarket fitment data. Aftermarket suppliers publish ACES data for their product line so the entire supply chain is using the same, standardized data.
ACES follows an XML structure. It is available for subscribers to download as Access 2007, ASCII, MySQL or SQL Server 2008 R2 formats.
The current standard for ACES is 4.1, released May 2020.
VCdb Vehicle Configuration Database
The Auto Care Association’s vehicle table, referred to as VCdb for “Vehicle Configuration Database,” covers vehicle type. It contains over 60,000 specific combinations of year/make/model cars and trucks. It includes attributes and configurations that go back to 1896 for US-manufactured vehicles, 1942 for vehicles manufactured in Canada and 1961 for vehicles manufactured in Mexico. The VCdb covers nine vehicle segments outside of vehicles. This includes agriculture, construction, industrial, lawn and garden, marine propulsion, marine auxiliary, power generation, railway and RV. You can subscribe to the VCdb in two levels. One covers light vehicles and powersports; another new level covers medium and heavy duty trucks, GVW classes 4 through 8.
Ever wonder how many different combinations of year/make/model vehicles there are? For that answer we turn to of the aftermarket industry’s two main sources of application fitment data: the trade association Auto Care Association (formerly AAIA) of Bethesda, Maryland and Direct Communications, Inc. (DCi) of Des Moines, Iowa.
DCi manages a few more vehicles for the specialty parts industry at about 72,000, including vehicles back to 1917 plus motorcycles and ATVs. In general, an application-specific part will fit an average of almost 60 different year/make/submodel combinations.
The specialty auto parts industry’s biggest sources of product data include DCi, managing just over 2 million part numbers. Other sources of product data include Illumaware, RPM Data Services, Vertical Development, the SEMA-backed SEMA Data Coop, as well as many others.
ACES and PIES data explained
ACES and PIES are standard industry data formats for managing and exchanging automotive catalog applications data. Aftermarket manufacturers can send and receive parts data using industry standard vehicle applications (such as year, make, model), part types and qualifier statements. ACES (Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard) is an XML structure and is used to manage and exchange automotive application (fitment) data. PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard) is used to manage and exchange product (part number) data. Product information in PIES files is categorized into over 20,000 product types that are organized into 25 categories.
Here’s a tip if you’re confused about ACES and PIES data standards:
And if you ever get confused with the PIES and ACES data standards, here’s a mental short cut DCi showed us. A PIES file—begins with “P“—is a list of Part numbers and Prices, like a typical jobber price sheet (from the “old days,” printed on yellow or green paper). An ACES file—begins with “A“—is a list of Applications, like a manufacturer’s application guide showing what fits different years/makes/models. Those shortcuts of course. They have nothing to do with the real meanings or names, which are Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) and Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES).
What about a universal auto parts fitment database? Or can someone buy an ACES and PIES database?
We see questions fairly often from people looking for an “automotive parts fitment database” or an “ACES and PIES database.” The data companies listed above manage parts databases by brand/manufacturer for their clients. There are many, many individual databases in the industry, created to be compliant with the ACES and PIES standards. If someone is searching for one comprehensive, universal database containing all the industry’s part numbers, it just doesn’t exist.
For more information: article on ACES and PIES data on AutomotiveAftermarket.org.
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