Aftermarket Parts: The Real Deal or Counterfeit?

By September 15, 2015Regulations

When it comes to the auto and trucks aftermarket industry, you should still maintain a “buyer beware” attitude.

In January of 2014, I posted a blog that dealt with the real problem of counterfeit aftermarket auto and truck parts. Back then, I cited the report from the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council’s Counterfeit Parts Task Force, which stated that, although it might be hard to estimate the exact cost for the trucking industry, “counterfeiting represents a $12 billion per year problem for the entire automotive industry.”

So what’s happened since then? Has the problem gotten better or worse? I, along with other industry professionals, was interviewed for a recent HDT article, “The Real McCoy,” which deals with this consistently worrisome issue. Although the costs associated with counterfeit aftermarket parts are still considered to be about $12 billion globally and $3 billion in the U.S., Tim Krause, President and COO of the Heavy Duty Truck Manufacturers Association gets a bit more granular. He stated that he hears estimates of between $30 million to $50 million in the heavy-duty aftermarket alone.

I noted, in the current article, that today’s technology has made it easier for those who want to break the law to do so, since those technological moves have enabled counterfeiters to create fakes that are basically indistinguishable from the real thing. And, at a time where businesses are continually trying to cut costs, looking for the cheapest price might seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, that can result in a lack of questioning a price that is really too good to be true. How much less may vary, but according to Phillip Rotman, the chief intellectual property counsel for Dana Holding Corporation, these fake parts can cost 50% to 60% less than the legitimate item. That can be tempting to a business that wants to bolster its bottom line, but it’s essential to remember that legitimate truck and automotive parts go through rigorous testing and quality control protocols that these fakes do not. And that will definitely compromise the reliability, durability, and safety of these products. That, in turn, can expose a business that uses these untested parts to unwelcome liability and litigation costs, should any of these parts malfunction.

Counterfeit parts are only part of the problem. There are other players in the game that produce something equally egregious: knock-offs. Unlike counterfeits which are produced with the intent of misleading the consumer by appearing exactly like the original, knock-offs give the appearance of being the same at first glance; but on closer inspection, you’ll be able to spot them. In the B2C world, this is very common, especially in the fashion accessory business. So instead of purchasing a Prada handbag (a very expensive accessory), you buy something that looks the same for 1/5 the price. But look a little closer and you might find you’re purchasing a Pada, instead of a Prada bag. The same may hold true for the aftermarket industry. That’s why, again, if it’s really an unbelievable bargain, don’t believe it.

Is there any hope of reducing this problem? Actually, according to TJ Thomas of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, the complexity of the new technology is making counterfeiters less interested in copying them. “We really don’t see [counterfeiting] happening with electronic products or compressors,” said Thomas. “They are looking for low-hanging fruit. The valves and the air dryers – items that are mechanical- where you can take them apart and reverse engineer them are of more interest.”

But until that happens, the HDT article lists eight things you should be doing:

  1. Check for markings – Most real parts have something that distinguishes them, from the brand name on a part or specific colorings or other markings in specific areas.
  2. Be aware of price – It’s the one mantra you should keep repeating, “If it seems too good [or cheap] to be true, it’s probably a fake.
  3. Know your suppliers – Seems obvious; stay with the people you know and trust.
  4. Investigate new suppliers – Do your due diligence and check what other customers are saying about these suppliers.
  5. Ask for what you want – Request for a part by brand name rather than taking whatever is offered.
  6. Check the part over – Pay close attention to the details of the part, especially the in the country of origin is different than what you would expect. Does it feel or look “off?”
  7. Watch installation issues – If it’s unexpectedly difficult to install or doesn’t fit right, be careful.
  8. Contact the supplier or manufacturer – Nothing is as effective at putting an end to this problem as notifying the OEMs or legitimate aftermarket producers. These companies want to know so that they can notify retailers and distributors or this problem.

Read the full article to learn about additional issues, like gray market, private label, white box, and will-fit products.

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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