LAS VEGAS — To enhance the confidence consumers and dealers have in its members' products, the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. will launch a warranty initiative called ProPledge.

Warranty issues have been a longstanding challenge for SEMA members. The credibility of aftermarket parts is damaged if customers are denied warranty repairs when the accessories or performance parts they have installed break or malfunction.

It is not just consumers who sometimes take the hit. Dealers also are vulnerable when they sell a certain company's accessories, only to learn the company does not provide adequate guarantee of its products. It can affect the bottom line and customer satisfaction.

“Dealers and the aftermarket have a challenge in front of them in addressing consumer desire for high quality and a warranty they can trust,” says Chance Parker, an executive director with J.D. Power and Associates. “If you look at some of the initiatives from SEMA, it's clear it recognizes it is a problem.”

The ProPledge program addresses some of those concerns. It includes a standardized minimum 3-year/36,000-mile warranty that participating aftermarket product manufacturers and installers have agreed to maintain.

Initial products under warranty include sunroofs, custom wheels, mobile electronics, leather interiors, suspension components, air filters, exhaust systems and various truck accessories. As ProPledge grows, additional product categories will be added, according to SEMA.

In those cases when a new-vehicle warranty is denied because of faulty installation or a defective product, dealers and customers will have access to a customer support center that will help them get the issue solved.

The venture is to begin in January. SEMA will introduce ProPledge to new-car dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention in mid-February.

“We believe the program offers tremendous opportunities for car dealers,” Christopher Kersting, SEMA's president says. “It should heighten customers' awareness about the product and installation quality of aftermarket accessories. If you think about it, SEMA, the OEMS and dealers all share the same customer. This kind of support program creates a happier customer.”

SEMA will test the initiative in five markets: Dallas, TX; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Milwaukee, WI; and Los Angeles, CA.