Counterfeit components can be dangerous for road users and are a growing problem for the automotive industry.
With the International MobilityShow (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA)) kicking off today in Germany, we thought this would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at the scale of counterfeit parts within the automotive sector and what brands and consumers can do to “drive” out the fakes!
According to industry estimates, almost 40% of auto spare parts are counterfeit and as many as 20% of all fatal road accidents are caused by fake auto parts. Let’s just take in those figures for a moment….pretty scary, no?!
Like any other popular industry, the flood of counterfeit items into the automotive sector is due in large part to the rapid proliferation of online sales platforms offering almost every vehicle component, with the majority of counterfeit parts originating from China. Unfortunately, many of us are easily fooled by the near-perfect packaging counterfeiters employ and are often ignorant of the red flags, but there are also those who think a quick deal on a suspicious part won’t hurt.
However, when you think about it, cars are machines; and like other machines, are intricate, with some containing over 1,800 separate components. That’s A LOT of ways counterfeiters could create and sell fake goods. The difference of a fraction of an inch on a tire tread or screw head may save consumers money but cost them dearly.
Fake Parts: How to Protect Yourself – A Consumer Guide
First, some good news: Most E-Commerce sites are making significant investments in automated machine learning systems to curb the proliferation of fake parts on their platforms. Even so, here are some of our best tips to help you avoid buying fake, counterfeit, or imitation car parts online:
1. Cheap Packaging
Authentic auto parts typically arrive in good quality boxes with good quality printing. Anything packaged in a flimsy or sloppy manner may be a tip off that it’s a fake.
2. Check who you’re buying from
Click on the seller’s name and read the feedback from previous buyers. It’s important to know who you’re buying from; multiple sellers are often selling the same product.
3. What is the word on the street?
Customer reviews are an easy way to spot a fake part or a bad seller. Only buy from sellers with good reviews (at least 4 stars).
4. Missing Part Number
Authentic parts usually contain the part number printed on the box while counterfeit ones tend to print the number on a sticker.
5. Typos and Misspellings
Packages and instructions from reputable manufacturers are free of errors. If your package and/or instructions come riddled with typos and misspellings, check the product carefully as it may well be inauthentic.
6. Incorrect Instructions
If instructions don’t make sense — or there is missing information in the instructions — this a red flag.
7. Part Doesn’t Look Right
Compare the new part to an old part and carefully evaluate it. If there are differences in weight, dimensions, and other details, it may be a fake.
What About the Car Brand Owners?
As with all counterfeits, it is not just the consumer that suffers. Automotive manufacturers constantly battle against counterfeiters. The terrible potential for personal injury from a counterfeit product is a constant threat to brand value and consumer faith. Here we look are how brand owners can defend their brand’s reputation:
1. Look at the Complete Supply Chain
- Look for organisations that have the Certificate of Conformity. Organisations that have undergone this process may be trusted by manufacturers and consumers to produce parts that meet OEM specifications.
- Assess and protect the complete production process – from conception and design to manufacturing, packaging, and distribution – these are all areas that are extremely vulnerable. Counterfeiters who gain access to any part of this process could use illegal photography to hijack intellectual property or outright steal original components for after-market sale or use the products as counterfeit templates.
2. Online Enforcement
E-commerce platforms have become vulnerable to highly organised criminal enterprises. Companies need to employ a comprehensive, intelligence-led brand protection strategy that looks at a sustained reduction in infringement by addressing the source of the problem, rather than just taking down individual listings. For this purpose, the support of an online enforcement agency can be crucial. Online brand protection agencies use sophisticated technology such as image recognition and seller clustering to efficiently identify and takedown counterfeit products.
3. Investigations and Legal Action
Again, working with a specialist agency allows companies to look beyond individual listings and combine real-world inquiry expertise with advanced data collection and analysis methods. This gives businesses the intelligence to uncover high-value targets and entire networks that are promoting and selling these illegal and hazardous products, enforcing at scale and ensuring lasting damage.
4. Educate, Educate, Educate
Aggressively educate the market on how to verify genuine auto parts as well as identify and report fake parts. Every fake reported is an opportunity to shut down a counterfeit supply source.
Brand owners can’t do it all alone. Collaboration is vital to ensure effective results. Governments, consumer protection agencies, industry bodies and automotive businesses need to address these problems in collaboration to drive policy, legislative and regulatory solutions.
If you need support dealing with anti-counterfeit parts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts here.
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