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Propaganda Watch


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Pop quiz! Which of the following statements is true:

A) If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s there to hear it hit the ground, then it didn’t make a sound.

B) If your spouse has put on a few pounds but you don’t have the heart to say anything, then your spouse hasn’t gained weight.

C) If the Certified Aftermarket Parts Association only received complaints on .02 percent of the 1.5 million parts it certified in 2001, then A/M crash parts must be equal or superior to original equipment parts.


D) Pop quizzes are mean.

And the answer is … D. Adolescence is hard enough without these sorts of surprises. Remember all that teenage angst? Remember how nothing on your body fit together properly and how you thought you were destined to be a dork for the rest of your life? Things were bad enough. You didn’t need a pop quiz coming along and making it worse.

In fact, I shouldn’t have sprung a pop quiz on you. It was wrong. I won’t do it again. And, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with being a dork. I myself am a dork (though I prefer the term “quirky”).


But this isn’t so much about the fact that pop quizzes are mean. It’s more about the fact that the other three statements in the quiz aren’t true – even though one of them is being widely touted as truth. Can you guess which one? Come on, take a guess.

OK. I’ll tell you. It’s C. The statement about CAPA-certified A/M crash parts.

Now before I go on here and get myself into trouble, I want to set the record straight: I am not – and have never been – anti-A/M parts. What I am is anti-propaganda. And it just so happens that the latest propaganda is on A/M parts.


Propaganda makes me mad – especially since many people find it easier to simply believe the “spin” that the news media and various organizations put on stories. Let me explain.

Propaganda-Spotting Tip No 1: Always consider who issued the release and their agenda.
In a recent press release, the Alliance of American Insurers says that CAPA’s complaint data – or lack of complaint data – confirms the AAI’s “long-held belief that certified generic parts are equal or superior to auto company replacement parts.”

Propaganda-Spotting Tip No. 2: Think logically about what’s being said.
The AAI is claiming that since CAPA received complaints on only .02 percent of the 1.5 million parts it certified in 2001 and only 94 complaints on the 357,548 parts it’s certified during the first quarter of 2002 that this proves that A/M parts are equal or superior to OEM parts.


No Complaints = Quality Parts

But isn’t this like saying that if a husband beats his wife and she doesn’t go to the police station to press charges (to file a complaint) that he’s a good husband?

No Complaints = Good Husband

Propaganda-Spotting Tip No. 3: The facts won’t get in the way of a good story.
Asserting that A/M crash parts are functionally equivalent to OEM parts because CAPA receives few complaints is not only speculative, but downright manipulative. And if the OEMs issued a statement saying that their parts are better because no one complains about them, I’d be saying the same thing:


“How dumb do I look?”

More likely, what a low complaint ratio means is that repairers don’t bother to register a complaint with CAPA. In fact – and this is a fact – based on our BodyShop Business 2002 Industry Profile in which we surveyed thousands of shops across the country – 40 percent of shop owners say they never notify CAPA if there’s a problem with a CAPA-certified A/M part.


If CAPA and AAI want consumers and repairers to believe that A/M parts are just as good as OEM parts, then they should concentrate on improving parts quality – rather than issuing press releases that insult people’s intelligence.


I, for one, am not as dumb as I look.

Georgina K. Carson

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