Close Vote Belies Interests of Committee Members Rather Than Facts At Hand; Car Company Part Monopolies Protected, Consumer Choice Denied

Boston, MA: The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA), the nation’s only independent, non-profit crash parts certifying organization, today voiced concern about a report released by the Massachusetts Automobile Damage Appraisers Licensing Board, an organization whose sole purpose is to review practices of insurance damage appraisers. While the issue of competitive replacement parts is well outside the jurisdictional oversight and expertise of the ADALB, Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner Ruthardt, asked the Board to consider whether or not there are any safety implications with the use of these cosmetic parts. Although the slim majority acknowledged they had no scientific evidence to support their views, the board implied in its “majority” report that there may be safety implications regarding these parts. The slim, 3 to 2, margin indicated the clear disagreement among Board members. A minority report reflecting the dissenting views addresses the concerns of the “majority” report and essentially concludes that there is NO evidence that these cosmetic replacement parts compromise the safety or value of a vehicle.

“In fact, the very existence of competitive parts has been the main factor in the overall improvement in the quality of both car company and non-car company parts,” said long time consumer advocate and Executive Director of the non-profit CAPA, Jack Gillis. The writers of the “majority” report ignored the results of crash test preformed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); the nation’s most recognized and turned to auto safety testing organization. The IIHS testing clearly illustrated that neither car company brand or non-car company cosmetic repair parts have any affect on the safety of the vehicle. In fact, they presented the committee with results of crash tests in which a 1997 Toyota Camry performed equally well both with the car company brand parts in place and with no parts on the vehicle, thus replicating previous tests which show that the “outer skin” of a car does not have a bearing on safety.

What is particularly telling, and calls into question the conclusion of the “majority,” is that the report actually states that “reliable physical evidence with respect to the safety of aftermarket structural parts is hard to come by.” Despite their own admission of a lack of evidence, the slim majority concluded, on the basis of anecdotal information supplied by their colleagues in the collision repair shop industry, that competitive cosmetic replacement parts have safety ramifications.

“The Board is simply incorrect in stating that the use of cosmetic aftermarket parts ‘may jeopardize the safety and value of the vehicle,’ said Gillis. “There is absolutely no evidence that just because the part was not made by Ford or GM that there is an inherent problem with the part.” “Clearly, Massachusetts consumers, who have come to rely on such common non-car company brands such as DieHard, Midas and Fram, know that car companies are not the only ones who produce good parts. In fact, roughly one-quarter of the cars on Massachusetts’s roads have non-car company crash parts put on them by Massachusetts collision repairers. A simple check with the Consumer Affairs or Attorney General’s complaint files will show that there is no evidence of problems. Clearly, because this issue is so far outside the responsibilities and expertise of the Massachusetts ADALB, they have drawn totally inaccurate conclusions and made some terrible errors of judgment. The three people constituting the “majority” have simply chosen to ignore the fact that the responsible federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has determined that cosmetic aftermarket parts do not affect safety. However, if there were safety issues, NHTSA could and would step in, as we’ve seen them do with such non-car company parts as Firestone tires and child seats.

Furthermore, contrary to the Board’s assertions that “there is no agency … that monitors or evaluates the suitability of an aftermarket part as it leaves the plant,” the Certified Automotive Parts Association has for over 12 years had an aftermarket part certification program in place that maintains strict standards for the manufacture of such parts and includes regular inspections of both the parts and the plants where they are made.

Likewise, the Board’s statement that “there is no recall system for aftermarket parts in existence” overlooks the CAPA system that requires individual numbering and labeling of each part when it leaves the factory, enabling it to be tracked and returned if there is any problem with it. It also overlooks the fact that the U.S. Department of Transportation has complete authority to issue a safety recall regardless of who makes the part.

Ironically, the Board’s belief that “the very few number of CAPA-certified structural parts is indirect proof … that they are not of like/kind/quality to the original parts” simply confirms the fact that CAPA certified parts are an excellent option for Massachusetts consumers.

This Board’s “majority” conclusion does nothing more than serve as a thinly veiled protection of the car company monopoly on crash parts—a monopoly that costs Massachusetts consumers millions of dollars each year in over-priced parts. For example, to replace a simple hood on a 1994 Taurus will costs a Massachusetts resident about $400, and that doesn’t include the cost of properly installing and painting the hood. On the other hand, that same Bay State resident can go to any number of stores and buy a complex TV/VCR for about $150. Why do Bay Staters have to pay so much for a simple piece of stamped sheet metal? Because it’s only available from Ford, yet there are ten companies competing for our TV/VCR business. That competition means lower prices and better quality.

The ADALB “majority” view is wrong and only serves to protect the car company monopolies. Massachusetts consumers are not afraid of competition and the ADALB should be encouraging, even demanding, more competition, not protecting the pocketbooks of the car companies.

Contact: Jack Gillis
(202) 737-2212