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Thursday, 23 September 2010 11:09

Aftermarket Parts: Are they the Same? Are they Safe? Is there a Problem?

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.

What gives me the right to comment on any of the above issues and why would I want to bite the hand that feeds me? If there were no problems with aftermarket crash parts why would I even care?

I am in business to make money, and to stay in business I need to treat my customers fairly and honestly. Part of being in business responsibly is  serving my customers by giving them  good and honest value for their money. If there were no problem with these parts I would embrace them and present them to my customers as an added value. I would be an advocate, not a critic, of  the aftermarket part.

Some readers have wondered why I am able to speak out as I do on the industry with boldness and confidence. Because I know that I speak the truth and its hard to argue with that.

I am concerned with the diminished value of my customer’s vehicles and I am compelled to speak out. I have ten years of documented proof along with photos and invoices to prove that what I am saying is true. Aftermarket crash parts are NOT the same as OEM unless they are made on the same assembly line to the same exacting standards.

Recently (last week) I had a 2010 Toyota Tacoma come in for a repair. The estimate listed all A/M parts, even for the front impact bar. This customer did not even know that there was an A/M parts clause in his policy. The difference out of his pocket was $400 plus a deductible. He contacted his insurance company, but to no avail. He was told, in effect, “too bad.” This is the type of policy you bought—but they will guarantee the parts specified as long as he owns his vehicle.

He asked us if the parts were the same and we had to tell the truth. We told him ‘no, they were not the same.’ If we answered any other way then we would be liable because the Toyota dealer will depreciate this 2010 Tacoma upon trade in.

I have a big problem with this deceit when I am the one expected to do the deceiving. There is a big difference between allowing a well-informed discerning customer to make this decision and one who is not informed, but the former is almost never the case.

Normally I am expected to be the one to convince my customer that these parts will make their car as good as new. The problem is that it’s just not true. It’s a problem for me when the customer is trusting me and my name and reputation is going on the repair.

Do you really think I will keep this Toyota Tacoma owner as a customer if he realizes one day that I lied to him? What about when trade-in time comes, and he and his wife go to the dealer to pick out their new car and find out that their 2010 Tacoma can’t be traded in without a substantial loss? I wonder if he would blame his insurance policy, or care about the guarantee of these parts then, or would he just be upset with me, the guy who put the parts on his truck?

The problem with aftermarket parts is more in the deceit that must accompany them rather than with the part itself. Because NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, would choose these over OEM parts if cost were not a factor. The problem is that the use of these parts have far have superseded proper business ethics and the manufacturers want the collision industry to become a party to what are deceitful marketing and sales tactics.

Safety is the issue, but many in the aftermarket crash part industry are bold enough to say this is all fabricated and blown out of proportion. I have been around long enough to say that collision repairs are really not investigated, so to say there is no safety issues at this point is risky foolishness not unlike marketing cigarette smoking. People were getting cancer from cigarettes years long before anyone was able to prove smoking was responsible.

Either way, safety is not the only issue. There is substantial diminished value, and the parts are not the same, as many of our state laws require.

When will the truth about these crash parts reach the public and when will the insurers properly inform their policyholders of the facts? When will use of these parts be banned from late model vehicles? Since when did fit and finish mean nothing in a collision repair? When will the major insurers realize that using aftermarket crash parts will eventually cost them their customers? Why is the collision industry still held liable for the repair when we really don’t control the decisions in the repair process? When will we quit being the advocates of deceit and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.