Authorities in Abu Dhabi have seized half a million counterfeit car parts destined for the Australian market in a measure that should send a strong message to counterfeiters that their time in business is fast drawing to a close.
The largest-ever operation of its kind in the United Arab Emirates resulted in the confiscation of more than 500,000 fake parts, worth around $5.4 million.
The January raid on a warehouse and distribution centre came after a joint investigation conducted by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and several global automotive manufacturers. It yielded 21 truckloads of parts, all of which were destroyed, bearing the logos of 15 car makers.
“Investigators tell us there is a good chance that thousands of these inferior, illegal and dangerous parts were on their way to being fitted to Australian cars,” said FCAI Chief Executive, Tony Weber.
“We have demonstrated the manufacturing inferiority and danger of counterfeit parts and this black market is risking the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”
Holden hoods unsafe
GM-Holden engineers have reported that that sub-standard latch materials in non-genuine bonnets failed basic tests, posing a serious threat to road safety.
The striker wire that keeps the bonnet assembly safely latched under normal driving conditions failed basic GM tests, resulting in bonnets being released at high speed, smashing into the windscreen and totally obscuring driver visibility.
The part tested was sourced from a self‐certifying parts manufacturing and importing business that distributes parts under contract to major Australian insurers to motor body repairers.
GM‐Holden Engineering Group Manager, Rowan Lal, headed the test project undertaken on VF Commodore bonnets.
“The non‐genuine bonnets tested are demonstrably inferior, exposing dangerous defects in the striker wire due to poor manufacturing, plus an obvious lack of research and development on materials used,” he said.
“The striker wire failed our pull strength testing, with the wire’s hardness falling dangerously below our design specifications.
“The hood slam testing we conducted using our factory‐specified cycles indicated excessive wear and a sawing effect on the striker wire.”
These lab test findings follow on from pedestrian head impact testing on the same bonnets, undertaken by Adelaide University’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) last year.
In addition to the poor fit and finish found in the counterfeit bonnets, the results of the CASR test indicated that the non‐genuine parts increased the chance of a traumatic brain injury in the event of a pedestrian impact.
AADA CEO, David Blackhall, said the latest test-failure revelation comes as no surprise.
“This is an ongoing serious problem and everything must be done to stop fake parts entering Australia and putting lives at risk,” he said.
Last May, Chinese police confiscated 33,000 counterfeit Toyota parts, including crucial safety parts such as airbag triggering devices.
In April, the Federal Court upheld Toyota’s claim that two repair shops had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by selling counterfeit airbag components.
Mr Blackhall said that while he’d like to believe counterfeiters would think twice before they continue in this business, he understood there would always be rogue opportunists.
He said the Abu Dhabi raid was a major victory because it was a combined effort of several global automotive manufacturers together with UAE authorities. It stopped non-tested, unsafe replacement parts arriving in Australia.
“Let me say counterfeiters won’t last. They will be caught. The AADA, the FCAI, manufacturers, police and customs around the world will do everything possible to stop these imports,” Mr Blackhall said.
“I voiced my concern about counterfeit parts last year, saying that it was just a question of when, not if, we will see serious accidents caused by the failure of faulty replacement parts.
“It’s extremely difficult to differentiate between genuine and non-genuine parts and while some repairers are blatantly installing fake parts and getting away with it, other repairers are unaware they are not genuine.”
Mr Blackhall reiterated AADA’s and FCAI’s “wholehearted” support for the Industry Agreement on Access to Service and Repair Information signed by peak bodies in 2014.
Mr Weber said consumers need to be aware that non‐genuine parts are regularly used in vehicle repairs without customers being aware, and only by insisting on genuine can the consumer be reassured they are getting a part fit for purpose, tested in situ with the vehicle for which it is designed and backed by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
“This component test, together with the previous tests we have conducted and the seizures internationally of huge volumes of counterfeit, fake and non‐genuine parts, reveals the extent of the problem,” he said.
Mr Weber said counterfeiters are more sophisticated than ever. Inferior copies are so close in appearance to the originals that even professionals have difficulty telling them apart until they test their actual performance.
The only way for consumers to ensure they are getting genuine OEM parts is to purchase spare parts and accessories from the authorised genuine part Dealers and dealerships, he said.