“Never judge a book by its cover” is a very apt phrase for the automotive world given the level of counterfeit sophistication that exists in this industry. Fake airbags, tires, spark plugs, and oil filters are just a few of the many illicit auto parts gaining popularity in the last few years.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.25 million people die in road traffic each year. This means on average 3,424 deaths per day or over 2 deaths per minute. An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. More statistics available here.
One of the top ten causes of car accidents is defective automobile parts, which could be as a result of counterfeit parts such as airbags malfunctioning during use. The issue is not only seen within the borders of emerging markets: developed markets also see their fair share of counterfeit automotive parts primarily because exports can come from the same sources.
Additionally, while it may be easier to spot counterfeit luxury products, the same rules do not necessarily apply for automotive parts. Automotive part counterfeiters can fool even the most expert auto repair specialists into using fake parts. With lower costs, lower standards, and features indistinguishable to their genuine counterparts, fake automotive parts are a lucrative but deadly business.
Dangers of counterfeit auto parts
Fake automotive parts are not like fake purses; real danger can be associated with their use:
Fake automotive parts are generally substandard, which can put the consumer in harm's way
Use of fake auto parts may not fit the car's specifications and can lead to more mechanical complications with the vehicle and potentially cost more to fix
Sale of counterfeit versions causes an economic problem for the businesses in the automotive industry and consumer trust in their current products can decline from negative experiences with fake products
How to spot a fake automotive part
The pricing does not match the typical online price listed. If the part you were sold is typically much cheaper than the Manufacturer Retail Price (MRP, which can be found on the brand's website), it may be an indication of a possible fake product
The packaging of the part appears to be low quality. The level of thickness of the packaging material may provide a hint as to the product's quality level. Even if you are not installing this part by yourself, it is better to re-confirm with the auto specialist by asking to see the packaging. This extra step could save your life
If you have an old part that you would like to replace, compare it to the new one you are replacing it with. Are they similar? If not this is an indication this is a counterfeit product as well. Note that the look of parts may change a bit over time depending on the manufacturer. Check with the manufacturer for more information
What can be done?
Original manufacturers should increase consumer education about fakes and publish information on their websites that will help consumers distinguish the original from the fakes
Auto-retail shops should have an established purchasing method that guarantees genuineness. Shops should also audit their suppliers to ensure that the products are coming from a legitimate, legal source
Technological solutions like Sproxil should be incorporated into their business processes as it helps everyone in the distribution process authenticate the products; even the end consumer can verify that what they have is genuine simply by using their mobile phone