The perils of using fake car parts
Cash-strapped motorists risk falling prey to sellers of counterfeit and sub-standard car parts which, in the long run, could cost them dearly. So how do they trust that the part they are sold is the real deal? Having a broad understanding of the auto comp
asidefrom 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 longerterm 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. Broadly speaking, it’s a cheap, sub-standard fake of the original. “Counterfeit parts are parts packaged and sold as being something they are not in an effort to deceive the end user into thinking that a high-quality, reputable branded product is being purchased,” says Renai Moothilal, executive director of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers of South Africa. While vehicles are under warranty they would normally be fitted with genuine parts. But the older the car gets, the less likely it is that customers will insist on genuine parts. It’s difficult for the layperson to visually distinguish between genuine and counterfeit parts, but there is one important indicator – price. “If there is a major price difference between the part in question at a retail outlet versus the commonly expected retail price, then it’s possibly a counterfeit product,” cautions Moothilal. “Ideally parts should be sourced from established retailers and serviced at trusted workshops.” Accredited members of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and Motor Parts & Equipment Association (MPEA) sell original and replacement parts into the automotive aftermarket. When dealing with any business in the retail motor aftermarket, motorists could look out for an RMI stamp of approval.