The perils of using fake car parts | Fin24

The perils of using fake car parts

May 09 2017 12:38
Glenda Williams

Aside from the dangers that counterfeit replacement car parts pose through accidents caused by part failure, inferior quality parts are likely to require frequent replacement. Then there is the thorny issue of impact on car warranty.  

It all adds up to the likelihood that a cheap fix could, in the long run, cost motorists more than genuine parts. 

“It is important that motorists understand the level of standards and quality checks that go into OEM [original equipment manufacturers] parts. Original parts ensure optimum safety. Counterfeit parts may be cheap, but motorists run the risk of safety issues as well as long-term maintenance costs and unnecessary and costly repairs,” says Renai Moothilal, executive director of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers of South Africa (NAACAM). 

Many motorists are unaware of the consequences of using counterfeit parts, and often unsuspecting vehicle owners are duped into purchasing fake parts thinking they are genuine. 

SA’s car parts industry

The majority of NAACAM members in SA supply parts and sub-assemblies used for vehicle assembly by OEMs and for distribution as Original Equipment Service (OES) parts. The latter are approved parts supplied via the OEM to its domestic dealer networks and independent repair shops in the OEM branded box. 

“In this context there is very little probability of counterfeit parts infiltrating the supply chain given the strict and stringent purchasing relationship between OEMs and their suppliers,” says Moothilal. 

Then there is a different category of parts production, self-branded spare parts. This category, explains Moothilal, can be broken down into two; “reputable” branded spare parts and “other” branded parts. 

“Alternate parts (reputable parts) are sometimes from the same suppliers we use or other reputable manufacturers. They may not have the same stringent sign-off process and be of a lesser quality, but are still safe to use and SABS approved,” Matt Gennrich, general manager of Group Communications, Volkswagen Group South Africa, explains. 

“The ‘other’ branded parts category comprises a whole range of branded or unbranded parts which may or may not be fit for purpose or meet the required specifications where they exist. This category is not necessarily bad or counterfeit product, but is typically associated with very cheap, imported parts. The problem here is that it is often left to the buyer to determine whether these parts are suitable,” says Moothilal. 

According to Gennrich, effectively 30% of total business would be what OEMs supply and 70% would be alternate and/or counterfeit parts. 

“The biggest indicator on suitability will be price. Often if there is a big difference in the price between the reputable branded part and the unknown brand then one can assume that there may be longer-term quality, reliability and safety issues with the part concerned as the costs of producing for such a high-standard product are probably not being incurred,” he explains.  

The dangers of sub-standard parts

“One can expect that counterfeit parts have not stood up to the rigorous testing and production standards set by reputable branded manufacturers. Similarly, there is no guarantee that minimum quality tests such as SABS testing have been done.“Especially on safety-critical parts [among them brake pads, brake master cylinders, automotive glass, airbags, shocks and tyres] there is a likelihood of counterfeit parts playing a role in both causing accidents as well as not providing the protective safety aspects that can be associated with the branded part,” explains Moothilal.

“There are plenty of cheap knockoffs, and these parts can be outright dangerous if fitted to a vehicle. It is highly likely that the use of counterfeit and sub-standard components will affect safety-critical parts and could definitely lead to road accidents or motorists being stranded on the side of the road,” says Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RTI) regional manager and Motor Parts & Equipment Association (MPEA) director Erwin Stroebel. 

“For safety-critical parts these sub-standard parts pose a substantial risk. For non-safety critical parts the risk is less and often financial due to the poor quality of these parts as they have to be replaced more often,” says Gennrich. 

The advice is to purchase safety-critical parts from reputable aftermarket dealers, known franchisees and quality branded parts. All will back up their products and have product liability cover if problems arise. 

The effect of counterfeit and sub-standard parts on warranties and motor plans varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. 

“In the case of Volkswagen/Audi, the warranty remains in place but if a subsequent fault can be traced back to the fitment of a non-genuine part, then the warranty for that repair or section of the vehicle that is affected will fall away,” says Gennrich

This is a shortened version of an article that originally appeared in the 4 May edition of finweekBuy and download the magazine here.

automotive industry  |  motoring  |  car industry

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