Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:47

Let’s Get Some Independent Testing to Move the Parts Battle Away from Sandbox Bickering

Written by Insurance Insider

Since the arrival of the first non-OEM crash part from overseas a few decades ago, the debate has raged on over the value, safety and benefit of using these parts. It’s important to note that the rage hasn’t come from the consumer (you know, the person that actually has the parts installed on their vehicle). So if the consumer doesn’t seem to care, who does and why?

The people who seem to care the most are the companies trying to sell parts. The reason is pretty simple: money. So the next time you see a press release, a simulated crash or a reaction to test with a reciprocating saw involving crash parts, be advised that what you are witnessing is a demonstration of big business fighting for market share and profitability.

I’m sure there are some safety concerns that need to be addressed. But if there were a significant enough problem, I would surmise that a lawsuit involving a few high-powered attorneys illustrating the faultiness of non-OEM crash parts and the resulting death of a vehicle’s occupants would have happened at least once in the past few decades. If you are aware of one, please send it to Lacking that, what we really have are two kids who can’t play in the same sandbox.

The end result is a lot of propaganda, rife with chest-puffing, staged testing, wasted money, name-calling and an increased cost of parts to the consumer in order to offset the needless expenses—despite the car manufacturers trying to lead you to believe that it’s all in the name of safety.

Hey, automakers, don’t waste any more money trying to convince us that the parts aren’t safe. Do everyone a favor: show us the lawsuits and scientific data illustrating the fatal consequences of using non-OEM crash parts. If you can’t, please spend your money some other way. Maybe donate it to a charity. Or here’s a suggestion: Consider reducing the price of your parts.

The non-OEM parts market can be divided among the “certified” or “non-certified.” Some might argue that they are one in the same, but I can assure that they are different most of the time. I should clarify: Sometimes a certified part is placed in a non-certified box. Why? Because it’s probably more economical for the parts manufacturer to produce and stock one part as opposed to two. However this represents a very small proportion of parts.

Unfortunately, certification doesn’t carry the high praise one might think. Most shops scoff at certification as nothing more than a way to charge more money. That isn’t the case. Certification provides a set of guidelines and a quality standard that the parts manufacturers must achieve. The certified non-OEM crash parts have improved as a direct result of certification.

So I may have just told you everything you already knew about non-OEM parts. But here’s something maybe you haven’t thought of: Have you watched any of the recent car manufacturers’ crash tests involving non-OEM crash parts? Have you seen the now infamous reciprocating saw demonstration of a non-OEM bumper reinforcement being cut in half? Did you find it odd that the parts being tested were never identified? Yes, they told us the year, make and model of the vehicle for which the parts were designed. But did they tell us what type of certified part was used?  Was it Diamond Standard? CAPA? Platinum Plus? NSF?

My guess is that we will never know. Why? Because they probably didn’t use certified parts for their tests. They used non-certified parts that are well-known throughout the industry as inferior. [Ed—See Toby Chess’ last column (Sept.) on clarifying the certification of parts tested.]

Here’s another suggestion. An organization that is not connected to the parts industry should pay to have an independent company blind-test a series of parts. There should be one sample for each type of part (OEM, non-OEM, and certified non-OEM). If there is more than one certification (CAPA and NSF, for example) for a given part, then each type of certified part should be represented.

The parts should be tested by an accredited engineering company not associated with any of the OEMs, parts manufacturers or distributors. The tests should include static and dynamic testing. I would even recommend the ultra-scientific reciprocating saw test.

Then we would finally be able to put an end this bickering between companies vying to discredit the other. We’d have test results that would be difficult to dispute.

If you don’t support my idea, send me an e-mail telling me why. Otherwise, I will assume my throngs of devoted “Insider” followers are in full support, prepared to rally and take the hill. Charge!

“The Insider” is an auto insurance company executive who wishes to remain anonymous. This column reflects his opinion and not necessarily that of Autobody News’ staff or contributors. 
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