Thursday, 10 November 2011 16:32

Inland Empire California Autobody Association (CAA) Chapter Holds Meeting to Discuss Aftermarket Parts Certification Issues

The Inland Empire chapter of the California Autobody Association (CAA) held a parts symposium meeting with about 217 CAA members, insurance executives and aftermarket representatives at the LKQ/Keystone warehouse in Ontario, CA, on November 9. CAA members came from several chapters in California. Featured speakers included CAPA's Jack Gillis, Bob Frayer of NSF Corp, Charlie Hogarty with the ABPA, and LKQ's VP of Government Affairs, Eileen Sottile.

Attendees were encouraged to take a tour of the warehouse with one of the location's representatives prior to the speakers' presentations. The tour walked guests through LKQ's wheel and bumper refinishing areas where second-shift workers were still working on reconditioning parts. Safety goggles affixed, guests were able to see technicians actively reconditioning bumpers and wheels to LKQ standards before resale to body shops. Tour guides detailed the processes the parts go through to ensure that they are not only visually similar to new parts but that they are also safe for resale. Networking opportunities and dinner were also available for attendees; Assemblyman Mike Morrell from the 63rd District also stopped by to talk with meeting attendees during dinner. Assemblyman Curt Hagman from the 60th District came to the event and stayed throughout the presentations.

Gillis began the meeting by talking about the Certified Aftermarket Parts Association's (CAPA) replacement parts certification process. Gillis outlined that CAPA requires several steps beyond just certifying aftermarket parts, including certification of the factory manufacturing the parts themselves, as well as regular inspection of the fixtures that are intended to mimick all mating surfaces from the AM part to the rest of the vehicle.


Monte Etherton, owner of Fender Mender in Encinitas, CA, pointed out some inconsistency he had seen between CAPA certified parts. Gillis said that there can be inconsistency between some CAPA certified parts and CAPA is working to cut down on that by continuing to inspect 70 to 80 percent of their parts after the initial certification.

Gillis also talked about the well-reported sawzall tests initiated by I-CAR Instructor and Autobody News Columnist Toby Chess where Chess used a reciprocating saw to easily slice through an aftermarket bumper bar. Chess' point was to demonstrate that the materials to fabricate the reinforcements were not the same. In the demonstration the saw couldn’t cut through the original automaker bumper bar. Gillis said that the backlash in the aftermarket parts industry following Chess' demonstrations pushed CAPA to create a specific set of rigorous steps for bumper parts certification.

Gillis said that Keystone also pushed for bumper standards because of the "tremendous inconsistency in bumpers being sold in the marketplace." These standards, now referred to as the CAPA 501 Standard for the certification of aftermarket bumper parts, were put into place last year.

Bob Frayer with NSF International also spoke about NSF parts certification. He said one of the issues in the aftermarket industry is that there is a lot of high-quality equipment and a lot of low-quality equipment; there is not a lot of in-between and it can be hard to decipher the quality you are getting as the body shop consumer.

Frayer also touched on one issue body shops face with using certified aftermarket parts; if there is an issue with a certified part the only way a shop can file a complaint is to take the time to sit down and fill out a lengthy form. Unfortunately, Frayer said, there is not currently another option for a shop when filing a grievance about a certified part--whether it be by CAPA or NSF.

Frayer closed his presentation by saying, "It is critical we {aftermarket parts certification associations} work together to get more certified parts out in the industry."

Charlie Hogarty, with the Auto Body Parts Association (ABPA), talked about the group's certification of independent distributors. He said the ABPA and NSF help to qualify quality distributors that are "quality oriented and organized." Hogarty stated that the ABPA's distributor certification helps to make the supply channel flow smoothly, from manufacturer to these certified distributors, to the repairer.

One body shop owner who wished to remain anonymous said that sometimes he sees aftermarket parts coming into his shop with slight damage sustained during transit. The shop owner said that he then has to either spend the time and money repairing these small dings sustained in transit or send the parts back to the distributor and ruin his cycle time. Issues like this can hopefully be weeded out as distributors are also being subjected to more scrutiny in order to receive ABPA's certification.

The final presenter was LKQ's Eileen Sottile, who briefed the group on her work with the Quality Parts Coalition (QPC) which is contesting the expansion of design patents by car companies. (See Autobody News, July 2011 Edition)

"Certification is very important to this industry," said Sottile. She cited examples of OEMs, specifically Ford, challenging the aftermarket parts industry by acquiring design patents on their car parts and then suing aftermarket parts manufacturers, like Keystone, for patent infringement and succeeding.

Sottile said if legal issues like this continue unchecked there will be less of a market for aftermarket parts and OEM-branded dealerships will be responsible for more repairs. More expensive parts will result in more totals because the cost of parts will skyrocket with no aftermarket competition.

Sotille said that QPC is currently working in a bipartisan manner to explore potential legislative compromises to the design patent issue for the Congress currently in session.

The symposium was also a charitable event for Shoes That Fit, an organization that helps children in need receive shoes and clothes that fit for school. Meeting attendees were required to either bring a new pair of athletic shoes for boys and girls grades K through 12 or a $40 check to Shoes That Fit in lieu of the usual meeting cost. 157 pairs of shoes and $1720 were collected for Shoes that Fit at the meeting, according to Kelly McCarty of Carty's Collision Center, the event's coordinator and emcee.

For more background on the speakers and information about each certification program please visit www.capacertified.org, www.nsf.org, www.autobpa.com, or www.keepautopartsaffordable.org.