Monday, 28 February 2005 17:00

Are CAPA seals dead in their track(er)s?

Written by Karyn Hendricks
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In late 2004, the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) released a new part tracking system called CAPA Tracker - a free, user-friendly, web-based program that connects the unique CAPA seal number to the exact vehicle on which it was installed. The product was developed in response to collision repairer concerns about tracing problem parts. With the system, CAPA will be able to quickly notify every shop that installed one of the parts in question. The shop could then alert their customer and take any necessary action. 

"Over the years, repairers have expressed concern that should a problem surface with a CAPA part they have installed, it would be difficult for them to determine if they actually installed that part and on which customer's car. The CAPA Tracker effectively solves this dilemma for the shop," said Jack Gillis, CAPA executive director.

CAPA believes this system provides repairers with far more control over the part process than they have with car company brand parts. Should a recall be necessary with a car company brand part, all consumers owning the particular vehicle in question are notified and the owner must bring the vehicle in for inspection. Upon inspection, it is then determined if the problematic part is present.

According to Gillis, the CAPA program is far more effective and much easier to implement because the uniquely numbered CAPA seal provides positive identification of the parts in the market. Shops will only be notified if they, in fact, actually used one of the parts. No vehicle inspection is necessary and only those consumers who have the part need to be contacted.

A second benefit of the Tracker program is that it will enable insurers to better monitor the actual use of CAPA certified parts and to trace those parts themselves should a problem arise down the road.

MQVP begs to differ

MQVP President William Hindelang released a strong, negative statement regarding CAPA's Tracker system, saying "The "Tracker" idea is tantamount to a triple slam on the very industry that has subsidized this so-called not-for-profit certifier."

Hindelang claims that "ever since the Avery Case, which was ushered in under CAPA's watch, the CAPA/Entela scheme has stood by their antiquated "sample inspection methods" and have tried to sticker quality onto the parts with seals. Not only is this new single point of tracking not "traceability," but this CAPA/ Entela scheme has ignored, for four years, this critical value-added feature of MQVP's supply-chain traceability.

"During this time they flooded the insurers vehicle repairs with parts stickered whose quality hasn't been "tracked." If it is important to finally establish traceability of CAPA's parts going forward, then the innocent insurance companies should not bear the liability of the past, but rather the full recourse should rest on the shoulders of CAPA. The failed stickered quality scheme and lack of tracking has slammed the insurers and distributors between more than just a rock and a hard spot. It is potentially even worse and more like being between a mountain of trackless stickers and a wall of class-action lawyers."

Alleged slam #1

A recent product comparison test conducted by an OEM revealed that CAPA allows its seals to remain on decertified product and that product continues to exist in distributor inventories probably across the country. Distributors and manufacturers who have supported CAPA admit that when CAPA parts are returned by shops, or decertified by CAPA, the parts go back into inventory and get sold later anyway.

"Does a shop really want to buy those suspect parts and then document it in the CAPA Tracker database? The fact that CAPA wants to force the industry into a design and testing requirement (i.e. "The CAPA 301 Lighting Standard") for safety- related products and put more trackless stickers on them, is a chilling thought," claimed Hindelang.

Insurers not willing to be unfairly tagged with that product specification and testing liability should appropriately avoid the technical committees and board associations with CAPA and the development of the CAPA 301 Lighting Standard, cautioned Hindelang.

Alleged slam #2

MQVP believes the "CAPA Tracker" appears to have been created and focused on driving recalls. While an effective recall would be a capability of a real traceability system like MQVP's, the higher order goal and a purpose with merit would be to use traceability and root cause problem-solving systems to drive best methods for preventing defects and to design and produce quality parts to begin with. Certifying product lots by sampling only, putting stickers on them and tracking them with the intent to issue a recall at a later date is detrimental to the industry image.

Distributors, who have been supporting CAPA and rebating or paying the manufacturers for the sticker fee, are now being advised by CAPA's announcement that the distributor should bear the cost of the recall. "Distributors should be horrified by this suggestion as they watch the not-for- profit Entela/CAPA system enjoy fees from both the insurers and the sticker sales," says Hindelang.


Alleged slam #3

MQVP claims this is the grand slam of them all. Collision repair professionals have put up with nearly 20 years of CAPA's solution to quality, which is in effect a revolving door of stickered quality that gets certified, decertified, re-certified, and decertified generating a VTF cash machine for the Entela/CAPA not-for-profit system. Now they are being set up by CAPA to be accountable for saving the failed sticker scheme. CAPA expects body shops to spend their precious cycle time hours entering the seal number and vehicle number information into the web-based Tracker, which CAPA needs to generate the recalls.

Hindelang called this a preposterous idea and an abuse of the shops' resources. He pointed out that the MQVP traceability system was designed to minimize involvement of the shops' time and eliminate data redundancy. "If CAPA had a traceability system like MQVP® they would have most of that information already and not burden a shop to do CAPA's job," says Hindelang.

We do it better

Four years ago MQVP, Inc. completed the development of its system and, along with the manufacturers and distributors in its program, has implemented traceability for the supply-chain. MQVP claims that the CAPA Tracker, unless used 100 percent of the time by all (45,000) collision repair shops, will be a failed attempt at traceability and a partial and fragmented recall tool at best.

"Again, instead of CAPA taking liability and responsibility for their failed sticker system they want insurers and shops to be recruited into owning this problem," reiterated Hindelang..

In addition to being in place and easy to use, the MQVP® GOCERTS® system has been enhanced in 2003 with an automation of data transfer between the participants (AutoCERTS). In 2004, the company released both a Web Portal service for easier web uploading of the traceability data and an advanced interface which participants can access as peer-to-peer e-commerce using Microsoft's Web Services functionality.

MQVP expressed that since they believe CAPA has been unsuccessful in protecting the consumer and assuring safety, maybe its time the industry should consider the importance of a functional traceability system and consider the existing MQVP OEM-like model.


CollisionWeek contacted Gillis about Hindelang's diatribe. He responded: "We are not sure what has stimulated such a strong reaction to a simple, straightforward addition to the CAPA program.

"CAPA stands behind its effective, independent, product certification program that continues to provide truly high quality alternatives to expensive car company brand parts. Thanks to its longstanding dedication to true quality, the CAPA program has been widely accepted by today's demanding collision repairers as well as insurers, parts distributors and manufacturers."

The plot thickens

Gillis later took aim at General Motors (GM) which released results of a test that supposedly compared GM brand bumper components to corresponding non-GM bumper reinforcement, ironically, a part type that CAPA does not currently certify.

Upon closer scrutiny, says Gillis, it appears that there is a serious flaw in the study and its conclusion - GM used the wrong aftermarket reinforcement for the test. When GM tested the 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier, it used an aftermarket bumper reinforcement for a 1995-99 Chevrolet Cavalier.

"Clearly, a part designed to fit a different model year series could not be expected to perform well. GM apparently chose the wrong part for a comparative test, and then may have compounded that error by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote an inaccurate and irrelevant comparison. "It makes you wonder if GM's adamant opposition to a free and competitive marketplace for crash parts may have been in play here," pondered Gillis.

"The published results of the test might lead the casual observer to think that car company control over aftermarket crash parts is a good thing, but that conclusion is as faulty as the tests results on which it relies. The bottom line is that any restriction on the free market for parts, whether that is in the form of a monopoly or even some less extreme arrangement, not only increases car repair costs for consumers but keeps collision repairers from being able to repair cars."

According to Gillis, what GM's study does validate is the need for an independent, non-profit, third-party, ANSI-approved standards developer like CAPA. "In spite of its flawed test, GM claims that aftermarket bumper reinforcements are inconsistent. As with other replacement parts, the market needs a mechanism to identify which ones do, in fact, perform well."

Gillis further points out that the GM report also includes a GM evaluation of a previously CAPA-certified bumper cover. GM chose to include in its test a part even though it had been removed by the CAPA program in December 2003.

"Leaving aside GM's motivation for choosing such a part, it is quite clear that the problem was caused not by the performance of the bumper cover, but by GM's use of the wrong absorber behind the bumper cover. In fact, there is no evidence that a GM brand bumper cover would have performed any differently when used with the wrong reinforcement," concluded Gillis, emphasizing that GM's use of the wrong part misleads the industry and consumers about competitive aftermarket part quality.


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