Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s conference table was adorned with two 2009 Toyota Corolla bumper reinforcement bars last week, courtesy of the Collision Repair Association of California (CRA) board of directors. CRA President Lee Amaradio (Faith Quality Auto Body, Murrieta) and treasurer John Tyczki (AM Auto Body, Inc., San Diego) hauled the bars into the Department of Insurance’s Sacramento headquarters to demonstrate the material difference between OEM and aftermarket parts, the association says.
Observing was Peter Conlin, counsel to the commissioner.
“I believe Conlin saw the difference between OEM and aftermarket,” said Amaradio, “And he certainly understood the ramifications of a safety-related part that fails to perform during a collision. But the question remains, will the commissioner take action, or will the collision industry continue to be given the stall by a regulator who wants to be governor?”
Also participating were CRA Executive Director Allen Wood and the association’s lobbyist, Richard Steffen.
Wood noted that the CRA had delivered two written requests to Poizner in February, both asking that he view a demonstration showing the structural inferiority of aftermarket bumper supports and that he also consider alerting claimants who have had their damaged vehicles repaired with aftermarket bumper reinforcement bars. The March 4 meeting in Sacramento is the result of these two requests, CRA says.
Conlin told the CRA that staff had seen the Toby Chess parts demonstration from the Collision Industry Conference, which sent a ripple effect through the industry and prompted parts and repair associations, manufacturers and insurers to question
and test the performance of non-OEM structural parts including
bumper reinforcements, steel bumpers, bumper brackets, radiator
supports and absorbers. Conlin also saw a video provided by CRA that showed the outcome when an airbag deployment is late by one-tenth of a second. The inference there was that the delay is linked to the use of replacement bars that are not OEM.
Steffen noted that Conlin told the group he would investigate whether or not the department had the authority to require insurers to inform claimants who have had aftermarket reinforcement bars installed on their vehicles. At a minimum, Steffen says the department could ask insurers to determine if they had the ability to identify those claims that involved payment for aftermarket reinforcement bars over a certain period of time.
“We want an effort made to protect consumers,” he added.
When Conlin said that it was his understanding that insurers had stopped requiring the use of aftermarket bumper reinforcements, Tyczki argued that the insurers’ pullback from aftermarket parts was proof that the bars were questionable in terms of quality and performance.
“If the bars are no good, the commissioner should do something to help those consumers who have them on their vehicle,” he said.
The CRA has also been discussing the aftermarket issue with staff at the office of the State Attorney General. Steffen said the office was in the fact-finding stage of that inquiry.
Amaradio added that the CRA was going to continue pressing the DOI on this issue and that efforts to go public with the problem would be increased if the commissioner failed to act.
BodyShop Business tracks industry concern over aftermarket parts performance