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Bugged: The Alliance of American Insurers.

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Big bugs live in Maui. Here in Ohio, winter takes care of most of our bugs. They don’t have long to live so they don’t have enough time to grow into monsters. Bugs in Maui, however, never know winter, so they just keep growing … and growing … and growing. I know this because I just got back from my belated honeymoon to Maui. It was there that my husband and I saw the biggest spider in the world Ñ at the treehouse we were supposed to spend the night in.

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Turns out, we’re not campers.

We had just gotten settled in when my husband, Barney, saw it. But rather than tell me about it, he convinced himself that it wasn’t actually a spider because a spider couldn’t be that big. It was a clump of nails on the ceiling. Yeah. Nails.

Moments later, I saw it. Panic ensued. Sure, we could kill it, but why bother? After all, it wasn’t the only spider in the rainforest. Or, we could keep an eye on it for the entire night. But what if we dozed off and lost track of it? What then? And what if it ate people? Heck, we didn’t know anything about the spiders in Maui. Maybe they have man-eating spiders. We didn’t know. We didn’t want to find out.

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So we fled. We fled the spider, the treehouse and the whole darned rainforest. In fact, we drove to the other coast of Maui just to get away from it.

Overreacting, you say? Perhaps. But you didn’t see it how big it was. Barney claims it was the biggest spider “this side” of Denver. I, however, say it was a spider the size of Denver. Regardless, we’re both now arachnophobic.

How big was this spider really? I don’t know. My fear of spiders makes it impossible for me to give you accurate, objective information. I’m biased: Bugs are bad. Period. And as far as I’m concerned, if I can see them, they’re too big.

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I guess what I’m saying is that if you want objective information on spiders, don’t come to me. Sort of like if you want objective information on, say, aftermarket crash parts, don’t go to the Alliance of American Insurers. They’re about as objective about A/M parts as I am about spiders.

Case in point: They recently performed their annual study in which they rebuild a vehicle with OEM parts to prove that auto owners and insurers “continue to pay outrageous prices” to repair damaged cars using OEM parts.

This year’s study focused on a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport, which has a retail price of $24,815, but when totaled out and rebuilt entirely from OEM parts, cost $71,631, not including the cost of labor and paint.

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Imagine what consumers think when they hear information like this? They don’t know it’s one sided. They don’t consider the source. Sure, there’s profit in replacement parts. Even Henry Ford was once quoted as saying he’d give his cars away as long as he could have the parts business. But, as you well know, there’s more to the parts issue than just price.

The Alliance also sited a 1998 study (conducted by the Insurance Research Council, by the way. Can you say, “conflict of interest”?) that found a majority of survey respondents would have confidence in the quality of a part certified by CAPA.

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Notice this “study” was conducted in 1998, conveniently before the high-profile Oct. 4, 1999, ruling in the A/M crash parts Snider vs. State Farm class-action lawsuit, in which State Farm was ordered to pay $1.19 billion to policyholders. You know, the case that brought national media attention to A/M parts. Before this case, most consumers didn’t know what an A/M crash part was, let alone a CAPA-certified one. (Many still don’t.)

Thing is, if you’re not taking the time to educate consumers, then they’ll be influenced only by the information put out there by the insurance industry. And that’s about as fair as putting an arachnophobic in a treehouse with a man-eating spider.

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Georgina K. Carson
Editor

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