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FCAI claims non-genuine parts is “deception and an unacceptable risk” for consumers

The FCAI claims “thousands of fake, substandard parts are out there”, but the AAAA is not so sure…

AT A PRESS CONFERENCE held at GM-Holden headquarters yesterday GM-Holden, the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries) and ‘Genuine is best’ ambassador Mark Skaife announced that internal testing by Holden engineers found a replacement bonnet that was sourced from a self-certifying parts manufacturing and importing operation did not meet the same standards as its own part.

The manufacturer in question, which the FCAI claim is contracted to major Australian insurers and distributes to collisions repairers, was not named. It is also not known if the part in question has been supplied to any crash collision repairers.

The testing of the non-genuine (non-Holden) part compared to the genuine (GM-Holden) part was performed by GM-Holden engineers at its testing facility. The test consisted of testing the structural integrity of the steel bonnet and its dimensional measurements compared to the genuine part which is made from aluminium. And the non-genuine item failed on all accounts.

“The results were as expected – the genuine items out-performed the non-genuine in every single safety criteria”, said Tony Weber, chief executive of the FCAI.

“Thousands of non-genuine, counterfeit, fake, substandard parts are out there.

“As an industry we are urging car owners to take care about what parts are used when their cars are serviced and repaired.”

The test showed the dimensional proportions were nowhere near that of the GM-Holden bonnet, and as such would require ‘massaging’ from panel beaters to ensure gaps were near factory standard.

What was more concerning to GM-Holden engineers and the FCAI is that the bonnet did not meet or exceed the same structural strength and manufacturing methods used in the GM-Holden part.

The most damning failure was of the striker wire – the hoop that attaches to the bonnet release. In GM-Holden’s testing one of the ends of the striker wire popped out of the bonnet, creating the possibility that the bonnet may become unattached during driving and cause severe damage. Such an incident would also create an extreme traffic hazard with the potential for serious harm.

When asked at what parametres the striker wire did let go at, GM-Holden Engineering Group Manager, Rowan Lal, said that information was proprietary and could not be shared. The FCAI claims the part was from a manufacturer who self-certifies, however without knowing who that is it’s impossible to know if the manufacturer is certifying to safe level of standard and that the Holden part is rated to a far higher safety standard than required.

We had the opportunity to inspect both the genuine and non-genuine parts that were tested, and to our (unqualified) eye there would have been such a force exerted to the non-genuine part that the latch holding the striker wire would probably have been the greater point of weakness. Indeed, the testing to create the fault was extreme, as Lal says:

“This test simulates real-world conditions in which high loads can be placed on the hood in the closed position due to extreme road inputs like large potholes, frontal crash events, and high speed driving or where aerodynamic load is placed on the wire and latch component.”

A part should be able to withstand such inputs, however it seemed the forces required were extreme. Without GM-Holden providing test data, it’s impossible to know.

Durability testing was also carried out and simulated ten years of normal use. The repeated opening and closing of the bonnet showed the non-genuine item’s striker wire was begging to wear out prematurely and at a far higher rate than the genuine item.

The evaluation included collision testing by the Centre for Automotive Safety Research who also found that the non-genuine steel part provided worse pedestrian collision results and also the heavier steel bonnet (around 18kg vs 9kg for the aluminium) could not be properly supported by the gas strut, potentially causing injury for anyone working under the bonnet.

Lal explained that repairers using non-genuine bonnets can regas the strut to support the load and that there are non-genuine aluminium bonnets, however both would still fail to meet the standards of the genuine item.

According to Lal, the price of the genuine bonnet is around $750 while the non-genuine runs about $400. It would seem that the extra money is better spent on the genuine item, given all the failures of the non-genuine compared to the genuine. In this case genuine is best, however it shouldn’t be a blanket statement applied to all parts.

We asked Weber if there had been reported failures in Australia and he indicated there hadn’t been: “To actually calculate counterfeit activity in almost any sector is almost extremely difficult because you only report what you pickup. I don’t have numbers on what’s actually coming across the shore. We think there’s actually probably a substantial amount of activity.”

Asked where they are coming from Weber continued, “Obviously third-world countries are attractive because you’ve got lower labour rates and you can bring in the product at a cheaper rate, and that’s the whole drive for this, it’s cost saving.”

But with manufacturing leaving Australian shores, there will be an increasing amount of genuine parts coming from these countries too, and if cost is the driving factor, then perhaps manufacturers could review OEM pricing.

The FCAI is doing a good thing to remove and stop counterfeit parts from Australian shores, but it’s important to clearly delineate between non-genuine and counterfeit products for the good of consumers.

Non-genuine parts can be a superior product to genuine, and in many cases the genuine parts are made by the non-genuine manufacturer. Our Robert Pepper explains in detail in his article: is genuine best?

Following the press conference today we spoke to Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) executive director, Stuart Charity, who is campaigning to increase consumers awareness about when to use non-genuine and in what cases it does not affect manufacturer warranty. Although Stuart is an advocate of non-genuine parts, he is also cautious when it comes to ensuring cars are safe.

“With the body parts, it has crumple zones and there’s safety standards that must be met, it’s important to use genuine or certified parts.

“Insurance companies will or should be using certified parts if they are independant parts and not from the manufacture, they’d be crazy not to. They are huge public companies and have a legal obligation to ensure it’s built to standards.

“There’s no evidence that counterfeit parts supply is on the rise in Australia. There might be some around, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But there are many non-genuine parts that are certified and they are as good if not better than genuine parts. In fact a lot of non-genuine parts are reboxed genuine parts. That’s because some our members make them for the manufacture and also sell them under their own non-genuine brand too, and at a lesser price. I think that’s part of what’s causing the genuine is best movement.”

Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.