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Ford: Aftermarket replacement parts can be inferior, possible safety hazards


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Ford: Aftermarket replacement parts can be inferior, possible safety hazards

by Chris Shunk (RSS feed) on Jul 23rd 2010 at 10:29AM

Today's autos are chock-full of safety equipment that vastly improves your chances of survival in the event of a crash. And if an automaker wants to achieve the best crash test scores, it has to ensure that parts like bumper beams, air bag sensors and radiator supports perform properly during a collision. But while automakers are concerned about their safety record, in some cases, aftermarket parts makers are more concerned with keeping costs down.

USA Today reports that Ford has called out some some aftermarket parts inferior, as the Dearborn, MI-based automaker's internal testing has shown that some non-OEM parts are made of cheaper materials that may not perform adequately in the event of an accident. Parts marketing manager Mike Warwood says the company was "surprised at the gap between original manufacturer equipment and aftermarket parts," adding that the gap was larger than anticipated. The easy way to avoid this issue is to demand OEM parts when your vehicle is in the shop for repairs, but unfortunately, some insurance companies insist that cheaper aftermarket replacement parts are used.

It makes sense for Ford push its factory-made parts, as the company makes lots of money selling in excess of 24,000 different replacement components. Ford insists that it is merely looking for aftermarket parts standardization to ensure the safety of its customers, along with stickers warning consumers that non-standard parts are being used. Insurance companies and aftermarket shops likely wouldn't be too happy if a standardization process is initiated, but it's hard to argue with oversight in the name of safety. After all, automakers test and build parts like bumpers for optimal safety, and consumers purchase those vehicles in part because of the safety ratings those vehicles earn.



Ford: Aftermarket bumpers used in repairs often inferior

By Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY

DETROIT — A comparison of aftermarket replacement parts for critical safety components such as bumpers and vehicle supports found they often are inferior to parts made by automakers, Ford Motor reported Wednesday.

Ford says consumers are often pressured by insurance companies to use cheaper aftermarket parts for insured repairs. The company said it will push for some sort of review and standardization of aftermarket parts, as well as for consumer warnings when the cheaper, non-standard pieces have been used to repair their vehicles.

The automaker compared copy bumper beams, bumper isolators, bumper brackets and radiator supports made for 2005 to 2009 Mustangs and 2004 to 2007 F-150 trucks and found some of the replacement parts were made from plastic instead of steel or magnesium.

"These are structural parts of the vehicle, and that makes the concern elevated," said Paul Massie, powertrain and collision product marketing manager for Ford. Air bag sensors are attached to many of these parts, and differences in materials could lead to air bags that respond too slowly or explode unnecessarily, he said.

The automaker decided to take a look at the difference in quality after seeing a presentation by Toby Chess, a repair expert who has been traveling to various collision conferences to demonstrate the difference between aftermarket and automaker parts. He attempts to — and can't — cut through a high-strength steel bumper beam, the bar that is behind the plastic bumper covers consumers see on the outside of their car. But he easily cuts through an aftermarket bumper beam.

"We were surprised at the gap between original manufacturer equipment and aftermarket parts," said Mike Warwood, parts marketing manager for Ford. "It's bigger than we anticipated."

Consumers often don't know now when aftermarket parts have been used on their vehicles, says Richard Steffen, district director for Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who's been looking at the issue for 10 years.

"People need to know," he says. "When it comes to safety-oriented parts, we believe they should be told they've got non-factory parts."

That doesn't mean only automaker parts should be used in repairs, he says, but standards need to be set.

Of course, it's in Ford's interest to promote their parts — they sell more than 24,000 replacement parts for car repairs. But the automaker says its primary concern is driver safety.

David Snyder, vice president and associate general counsel of the American Insurance Association, says not all insurers ask customers to take aftermarket parts, and those that do often offer long-term warranties on the parts.

Said Snyder, "The principal motive is to have safe parts, but also to avoid monopoly pricing by the automakers and to offer lower repair costs to the consumer."



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