The automotive aftermarket is big business – estimated by Autocare Association to be worth $273.4 in 2017 – that includes manufacturing, remanufacturing, distribution, retailing, and installation of all vehicle parts, tools, equipment and accessories for vehicles, after the sale of the automobile by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to the consumer.
One aspect of the automotive aftermarket is non-OEM replacement parts. These are commonly available through auto parts stores like Advance, O’Reilly, NAPA, and also through used-parts dealers (“junkyards”), and auto body repair shops. The primary “advantage” of aftermarket parts is price – they are substantially less expensive than their OEM counterparts. However, one must consider the real cost of choosing cheap replacement parts.
Insurance Companies Cutting Corners?
Just last year, CNN reported that auto-insurers were trying to take advantage of cheap prices by forcing repair shops to use aftermarket parts when repairing crash damage. Repair shops from some 36 states are joining a lawsuit against these insurance companies alleging the repairs forced by some insurance companies are dangerous.
Buddy Caldwell, attorney general of Louisiana, has filed suit against State Farm insurance, saying its low-cost repair program could be dangerous for customers who get back on the road in vehicles that are not roadworthy.
He said he fears thousands of Americans could be driving round in vehicles repaired with what he calls junkyard parts after seeking repairs from body shops recommended by their auto insurance companies who took their premiums and picked up the bill.
“It involves people from Maine to Mississippi to California. Every state in the Union has experienced the same sort of struggle here between the body shops trying to do the work the right way, and the insurance companies trying to cut corners and force them to use unsafe parts and unsafe methods on their cars,” he said.
OEMs Do Not Approve
Ford Motor Company issued a 2010 press release regarding non-OEM parts which included the results of tests performed by Ford’s Material Composition and Computer Aided Engineering department comparing OEM bumper beams, bumper isolators, bumper brackets, and radiator supports to their aftermarket equivalents.
These Ford tests found major differences between genuine Ford original equipment replacement parts and aftermarket copies. Ford found that non-OEM parts performed differently in crash tests because the aftermarket parts were not of like kind and quality as Ford’s original equipment and certified replacement parts.
Paul Massie, the powertrain and collision product marketing manager at Ford, said the tests “highlight the dangers of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, as less-expensive copy parts could lead to much higher repair costs down the road. All drivers should be aware that copy parts can compromise both the safety performance and the long-term repair costs of your vehicle”.
Counterfeit Parts on the Rise
To make matters even worse, consumers now have to worry about counterfeit or knock-off parts making their way into the steam of commerce. These parts are often sold in branded packaging and carry brand markings, but are in fact cheaply made and potentially dangerous fakes. In June, Chinese police seized 33,000 counterfeit parts, worth almost $750,000 US Dollars, destined for sale in Australia.
“While this seizure is shocking, sadly itʼs not uncommon and using counterfeit parts, knowingly or otherwise, means you’re taking a huge risk,” he says in a statement.
It offers a clear reminder to consumers that just because they see a branded box, bag or label they shouldnʼt assume theyʼre buying a genuine part. The way to avoid safety concerns posed by fake parts is to ensure you or your repairer sources genuine replacement parts from the vehicle makerʼs authorized supply chain.