Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:14

Aftermarket Collision Parts Industry Responds to Consumer Reports Article

The October issue of Consumer Reports ran an article called Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe? in which it stated “some safety experts are concerned about the internal bumper parts: a bumper beam, bumper isolators, foam, crush cans, brackets, and radiator supports. In a frontal crash, those pieces work together to properly transmit the crash pulse, or vibrations from impact energy that moves through the vehicle, to air-bag sensors and away from the passenger compartment to reduce or prevent injury.

“There’s a lot of engineering that goes into making a crash-protection system,” says David Zuby, chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “You can’t willy-nilly change those parts because the system may not work the way it was designed.”

The article went to say that “Ford reported that its engineers had found alarming differences in two aftermarket parts tested. One bumper bar was made of mild steel, instead of the ultra-high-strength steel that the original Ford part uses. A radiator support was made of plastic instead of the magnesium used in the Ford part. In computer-simulated crash tests, the fakes changed the timing of the crash pulse, which might affect air-bag deployment.

“Differences in material could result in a difference in the timing of the air-bag deployment,” says Mike Warwood, Ford’s parts marketing and remanufacturing manager. “The air bag might deploy earlier than it should or later than it should. Or it might deploy when it shouldn’t or not deploy at all when it should.”

“Ford’s testing follows a demonstration last year by Toby Chess, a master collision-repair instructor, who used a reciprocating saw to easily slice through an aftermarket bumper bar. The saw couldn’t cut through the original automaker bumper bar.”

Now a major automotive aftermarket association, ABPA, has responded to the Consumer Reports article.

Eileen A. Sottile, co-chair of the ABPA Legislation & Regulation Committee, issued the following statement:

“As a publication that purports to provide a “reliable source of information consumers can depend on to help them distinguish hype from fact and good products from bad ones,” Consumer Reports has sorely missed the mark with its piece, “Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe?,” featured in the October 2010 article, “Save on car insurance.”

The aftermarket collision parts industry maintains the highest standards of quality and safety in the parts we provide to the collision repair industry. In doing so, we also ensure that there is an economical parts option available in the marketplace — a benefit that is extremely important to most Americans, whether they are fixing their own vehicle or having work done by a repair facility. The availability of aftermarket parts also helps keep the prices of car companies’ replacement parts lower, allowing for more vehicles to be repaired rather than declared total losses, thus avoiding the financial stress car owners face when they are left to pay the balance due on the loans of their totaled vehicles.

Consumer Reports bases its highly questionable recommendation that consumers “demand that they [aftermarket parts] be replaced with original equipment,” on egregiously unscientific tests and unwarranted criticism from organizations that have a significant financial stake in the outcome of the debate on aftermarket parts: Ford Motor Company’s hypothetical assertions supported only by computer simulations of a couple of parts merely represent one more play by the company to create a monopoly for its own replacement parts; and quotes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety appear to be based on presumption rather than actual research and factual data.

Rather than providing a reliable source of information for consumers, Consumer Reports is doing nothing more than re-reporting unsubstantiated hype from fierce competitors.

I expect this magazine to be held to a higher standard, and hope that Consumer Reports will involve the aftermarket industry in any future reporting on this issue and uphold its responsibility to draw its own unbiased conclusions.”