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Attendees of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) typically look forward to technical presentations by well-known collision repair instructor Toby Chess due to their hands-on nature and his inclusion of an occasional magic trick. But there was no such presentation at the CIC held last week in Atlanta due to a threat of legal action by LKQ Corporation, the largest nationwide provider of aftermarket collision
replacement products, recycled OEM products and refurbished OEM collision
Chess was set to follow up on his demonstration at the January CIC in Palm Springs, Calif., where he showed the supposed differences in quality between OEM and aftermarket radiator core supports and bumper reinforcements. Instead, he announced that he could not give the presentation due to the threat of a lawsuit. CIC Administrator Jeff Hendler, who was not happy with the decision, later confirmed that the threat had been made by LKQ.
“I feel like anyone who thinks that something being said at CIC is unjust or unfair ought to have the guts to show up and offer their view on the situation,” Hendler said.
In the January demonstration, Chess showed how an aftermarket bumper reinforcement could be cut through with a Sawzall quite easily but that an OEM bumper reinforcement could not be cut through using the same tool. LKQ, however, claims it conducted the same test after the demonstration and achieved significantly different results.
“We took the part that Toby said would hold up against a Sawzall and cut right through it,” said LKQ spokesperson Sarah Lewensohn. “In the meantime, we crash tested parts he challenged and continue to do testing on rebars and products we took off the shelf because we don’t want to select them if there are concerns about them. We have a quality assurance group in the lab in Michigan, and that’s what they do. We focus on quality every day because that’s our job.”
Lewensohn added, “To cut something with a saw is somewhat theatrical but doesn’t necessarily help people get the correct info. We don’t think a reciprocal Sawzall test is the right kind of test to determine whether or not a rebar is quality. People don’t run into a saw. And don’t you want a Sawzall to work and cut through? After all, that’s what they use to extricate people in an emergency.”
Hendler, however, said Chess’s demonstration did not lie.
“It was very obvious the two parts were not of like, kind and quality if one could be cut with a saw and you couldn’t put a scratch in the other,” he said. “The bottom line is that no one said this was a scientific demonstration. This was a demonstration to forewarn shops that they may not be receiving the parts they think they’re ordering, and that’s all that was ever said.”
There is some debate as to whether a lawsuit had actually been threatened. One industry source said it was important to note there is no current or pending lawsuit, only that there had been an indication that there could be one after an unnamed LKQ representative contacted Hendler prior to the demonstration occuring at CIC.
“We didn’t threaten anyone with a lawsuit,” said Lewensohn. “I know someone from our company spoke to someone involved with that meeting to talk about the importance of people focusing on the facts and not conjecture. The fact is the products we sell are being disparaged in public with misinformation.”
Even if a lawsuit does emerge from this controversy, Hendler doesn’t believe Chess should be worried.
“There is no basis of any shape or form for a lawsuit, as LKQ’s name was never mentioned [during the January technical presentation],” Hendler said. “In fact, no manufacturer or distributor was ever mentioned.”
BodyShop Business contacted Chess for comment, but he did not reply.