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Consumer Reports Warns Public About Aftermarket Parts; ABPA Responds

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Consumer Reports is warning the public in its October 2010 issue about aftermarket crash parts, citing several sources who question the parts’ structural integrity.

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The article “Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe?” bases much of its information on Ford Motor Company’s presentation at the July 2010 Collision Industry Conference (CIC), which revealed supposed differences in structural composition between OEM and aftermarket crash parts.

The story also mentions the demonstration by industry trainer Toby Chess at the January 2010 CIC where Chess attempted to cut through an aftermarket bumper reinforcement bar with a reciprocating saw.

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The story opens by telling consumers that “auto insurers have recommended or required use of aftermarket crash parts, which are often produced in overseas factories and can be significantly cheaper than parts from original equipment manufacturers. Unfortunately, the parts might also be cheaper in quality.”

The story concludes by advising consumers not to be pressured by insurers, check invoices to see if aftermarket parts were used, and “if knockoffs were used, demand that they be replaced with original equipment.”

Eileen A. Sottile, co-chair of the Auto Body Parts Association Legislation & Regulation Committee, issued the following statement in response to the Consumer Reports article:
 
As a publication that purports to provide a ‘reliable source of information consumers can depend on to help them distinguish hype from fact and good products from bad ones,’ Consumer Reports has sorely missed the mark with its piece, ‘Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe?,’ featured in the October 2010 article, ‘Save on car insurance.’

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The aftermarket collision parts industry maintains the highest standards of quality and safety in the parts we provide to the collision repair industry. In doing so, we also ensure that there is an economical parts option available in the marketplace – a benefit that is extremely important to most Americans, whether they are fixing their own vehicle or having work done by a repair facility. The availability of aftermarket parts also helps keep the prices of car companies’ replacement parts lower, allowing for more vehicles to be repaired rather than declared total losses, thus avoiding the financial stress car owners face when they are left to pay the balance due on the loans of their totaled vehicles.
 
Consumer Reports bases its highly questionable recommendation that consumers ‘demand that they [aftermarket parts] be replaced with original equipment,’ on egregiously unscientific tests and unwarranted criticism from organizations that have a significant financial stake in the outcome of the debate on aftermarket parts: Ford Motor Company’s hypothetical assertions supported only by computer simulations of a couple of parts merely represent one more play by the company to create a monopoly for its own replacement parts; and quotes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety appear to be based on presumption rather than actual research and factual data.
 
Rather than providing a reliable source of information for consumers,
Consumer Reports is doing nothing more than re-reporting unsubstantiated hype from fierce competitors.
 
I expect this magazine to be held to a higher standard, and hope that
Consumer Reports will involve the aftermarket industry in any future reporting on this issue and uphold its responsibility to draw its own unbiased conclusions.”  

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