REPORT OF THE AUTO DAMAGE APPRAISERS
After-market cosmetic crash parts appear to suffer from the same manufacturing defects as aftermarket structural parts. Their overall weight, rigidity, and quality of metal and plastics differs from their OEM counterparts. It is, we believe, very safe to assert in writing that the quality and fit of after-market cosmetic parts are not the equal of an original. With respect to the safety issue involved in the use of cosmetic after-market parts the Board voted 3-2 that “after-market cosmetic parts are not the exact duplicate of the factorv original parts and may jeopardize the safety and value of the vehicle”. For many of the same reasons noted in our discussion of after-market structural parts reliable physical or scientific evidence with respect to safety is hard to locate. Rather, it is the cumulative weight of the evidence and testing that we received, common sense and the information gleamed from the after-market cosmetic parts offered in evidence that justify the Board’s motion.
Certainly, it must be stated that a cosmetic after-market part may not affect the safety of a vehicle in the same manner and degree as an impaired structural part. But as was evident in the Volvo video discussed earlier, an improperly manufactured cosmetic part has the very real potential to affect the safety of an auto.
Testimony received by the Board indicated that the improperly finished edge on a part could slice open the hand of the technician trying to install it. A fender or hood that fails to crumple properly can transfer the force of the crash into the passenger compartment and a hood that thrusts itself into the windshield and then into the interior of the vehicle are two examples of needless risks posed by the use of an improperly made after-market part.
The issue of the continued use of after-market cosmetic parts can be resolved quickly by the aftermarket manufacturers, their distributors, and by educated Massachusetts consumers. The after-market manufacturers can and must improve the quality of their parts. As stated earlier, of the 966 parts in the Veng catalog for Ford vehicles, only 103 were CAIPIA certified cosmetic parts. There are no valid manufacturing reasons why all of the parts could not be fabricated to equal or exceed the CAPA certified standards. If quality rather than cost become the over-tiding guiding principle used by appraisers in preparing an appraisal report, the use of poorly made parts would immediately and significantly drop. . If all auto body shops would choose the parts they decide to use on the basis of quality rather than bottom line cost considerations the use of poorly made parts would decrease significantly. In addition, the motor vehicle owner must do his/her part. He/she must not accept the use of parts that are visibly inferior to the damaged parts. If they do the safety of their vehicle and its value may both suffer.
Rational economic decisions made by the various entities involved in the purchase of automobile parts can and will lead to the manufacturing of better parts as Board member, Joe Valarioti so aptly stated “if you don’t buy it they won’t make it.”
The Board would also like to state in this report that a number of interesting questions and factors were raised at the hearing that were beyond the scope of the hearing notice but certainly deserve further scrutiny and study by this Board and by other entities.
A factor contributing to the increasing use of after market parts in Massachusetts is the 15,000 mile requirement mandated bv section 133.04(l)(d) regulation of 211 CMR 133. Testimony presented to the Board indicated that the 15,000 mile requirement is being misinterpreted by appraisers from the insurance and auto body industries as being an absolute limit that requires the use of after market parts. A careful reading of section 133.04 of regulation 211 CMR 133 indicates that condition of the damaged auto and (2) the over-all, bottom line, cost of the repair. The Board voted 4-1 that the Commissioner consider the feasibility of removing the 15,000 mile requirement from section 133.04 (1)(d) of regulation 211 CMR 133 and that further emphasis be put on the overall condition of the auto and cost of repair, i.e. the additional cost of a delayed repair because of higher costs for a car rental, handling of parts, returning after market parts and reordering of OEM parts.
A disturbing aspect to the use of any after-market part by any resident of Massachusetts or any other state is the complete lack of a product safety testing or product safety recall program bv either the manufactures or distributor of the after market parts. The Board is convinced that the metal and plastics used in the equipment manufacture of after market parts is not always of the same strength and durability as the metal and plastics used by the original manufacturer. The use of the materials that are weaker than or stronger than the original can affect safety. Similarly, the strength of the weld material can affect the integrity of the weld joint when it is subjected to torque pressure. There is no agency-international, Federal, or state that monitors or evaluates the suitability of an after market part as it leaves the plant of the manufacturer to distributor like Veng or Keystone then to an auto body shop and ultimately the auto. Each part shipped is not numbered or otherwise permanently identified. If a part does not fit correctly, if a weld is too weak, if in fact a part is unsafe for use there does not exist a system or method of identifying who may have bought a similar part. Currently, it is not possible to specifically warn any purchaser of an after market part of a defect. The board on a 4-0 vote voted to specify in this report that “there is no recall system for aftermarket parts in existence”. The Board recommends that records be maintained by the Distributors recording the purchaser’s name and address, and that a toll-free 800 number be established so that purchaser’s can call and verify if a recall of a particular part has been implemented.