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Thursday, 25 August 2011 16:08

Confusion over Certified Parts at CIC

Written by Toby Chess

This July I did a presentation at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Salt Lake City on the need for OEM data prior to estimating and repairing today’s cars. I also included some additional discussion and presented examples of bumper reinforcements. I received a letter from a CAPA spokesperson stating that my demonstration “caused members of the collision repair industry to believe, mistakenly, that the part used in your demonstration was CAPA-certified.” I think that it is important that I give readers an accurate account of what really happened. I want to make this clear. I am not against the use of quality aftermarket parts in the collision repair process, but I am very much against being told to use substandard parts and then assuming all of the risks for their use.

A couple of months ago, a shop in the Midwest received an estimate from a major insurance company calling for a certified front bumper reinforcement for a 2008 Hyundai Sonata. The shop had ordered from the A/M supplier a certified front-bumper reinforcement, but they received a non certified front bumper reinforcement. The shop’s tech did the right thing—he compared the damaged OE part to the A/M part and showed it to the owner. The was a considerable weight difference between the two parts. He ordered an OE part and sent the A/M part to me.     I purchased a new part and compared them. I found that A/M was not like, kind and quality. About the same time, I received a bumper reinforcement made by Diamond Standard for a 2003 to 2008 Toyota Corolla that was certified by NSF.

Again, I compared the two. This was an OE part and it was extremely difficult to distinguish between the two parts. I thought that it was necessary to ship both sets of bumpers reinforcements to the CIC audience, so I sent all four parts to Salt Lake City. While I was boxing up the parts, I had an A/M reinforcement sitting outside for the past year (I live in LA and we do not get much rain) and I decided to throw it away. I cut it in half and what I saw turned my stomach. The entire inside of the reinforcement was filled with rust. I included this part in my demonstration.

In my presentation, I never mentioned CAPA or NSF, but a member of the audience stated that the front bumper from Diamond Standard was certified and I corrected my statement. I also thanked the Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) for the effort in making sure that the parts they sell can be traced. I think that is important for you to see what I presented so you can understand why I made this subject matter part of my presentation.

Let’s look at the Diamond Standard and OE front bumper reinforcements.

I proceeded to take a piece of metal out of both parts to check the metal strength with a metal analyzer from Europe (Bor-On).

The Diamond Standard part had a reading of 36.1 which translate to Ultra High Strength Steel.

The reading of the OE part was 48.1 which translates to Ultra High Strength Steel. Both parts were ultra high strength steel, but the OE part had a higher strength. Also the OE had a series of ribs stamped into back side whereas the A/M did not. I put both parts on a table at the CIC meeting and asked the audience to look at them and select the OE part. About half of the people misidentified the A/M part as the OE. A shop owner, who sits of the CAPA technical committee, told me that the OE part was not an original equipment part, but a replacement part and I should not be calling it an OE part (the only OE part comes on the car).

The letter I received from CAPA states the “CAPA has yet to see any reinforcement bars or bumper parts that meet CAPA certification standards.” A representative from a OE manufacturer stated that the OE high strength was probably needed to pass the federal safety crash standards. Let’s look at the A/M reinforcement with the rust.

The part had some sort of finish on the inside end of the rail, but bare steel on the rest of the inside of the rail. I asked a CIC participant “what does rust do to the part?” His response was that the part was weakened. You don’t have to be an engineer to understand that if the strength of the steel has deteriorted, it will perform in different way. The strength category of this steel was high strength-low alloy (slightly higher in strength than mild steel), where as the OE part was ultra high strength steel.

Let’s look at the A/M Hyundai Sonata Reinforcement.

The OE part is on the top and A/M is on the bottom. I asked another CIC participant to feel the weight difference, which was considerable, and she picked the OE because it was heavier. I compared the thickness of both parts and you can see that there was a significant difference.

My question to everyone is this—If the OEMs can make a part that will meet safety standards with a lesser strength material, don’t you think that they would? As the strength of the steel increases, so does the cost. You be the judge.

I have a few more questions—Why do repairers have to be the beta testers for these substandard parts? Are the repairers being compensated for their time and expense in testing these parts? Are repairers being penalized for greater cycle times for installing the parts, taking off the parts, sending the parts back and ordering different parts?

I have been told by a number of shops that a particular national insurer will not allow a shop to substitute an OE part for the aftermarket part even though the OE has priced matched the aftermarket price. WHY? What can repairers do?

Next month, you will be able to post on Facebook-type blog any aftermarket or OE parts that do not fit, have poor quality or are not of like, kind, and quality. You are probably already taking pictures of these parts, so it will be a snap to add them to the blog page. More to come in the next issue of Autobody News.

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