Counterfeit auto parts have been a menace in the repair industry for many years. The copiers go to great lengths to make their knock-offs appealing, including mimicking the packaging with no regard for trademark or intellectual property law.
From Plastics News comes some figures indicating how deeply fake parts have infiltrated the auto parts market. In 2011 counterfeit parts are expected to generate $45 billion worldwide, up from about $12 billion in 2008. By far China is the biggest generator of bogus parts, with 83 percent of the total, while Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand produce the remainder according to the Japan Auto Parts Industries Association.
But China itself is not immune to the inroads that fake parts have made into the industry. The American auto parts maker TRW has lost as much as 20 percent of its Chinese market to home-grown counterfeiters who have decimated TRW's brake pad and brake rotor sales, according to the Asia-Pacific director for aftermarket parts.
The Chinese duplicators concentrate on parts that are used in high volume like oil filters and brake and steering parts. However some technology-driven parts are also turning up in China as fakes. The same TRW director said that the company has found airbags that have been copied.
No small operation
Corteco China Co. is a legitimate producer of oil seals in China. These seals are used in many applications and as many as 30 million are sold annually in China. Corteco sells about 5 percent of the total but thinks that market share would rise to 25 percent if the counterfeits were not in the marketplace.
The illegitimate producers can make the seals with inferior rubber and metal for less than half the price of the Corteco units. A company spokesperson said that the plant producing the fakes is no secret and has been operating for a decade. Each year the plant is shut down and then is allowed to reopen. In its latest iteration the productivity has risen to ten million seals annually from seven million as recently as 2007.
Going on the offensive
Auto parts manufacturers have joined forces with other global companies and formed the Quality Brands Protection Committee. Its goal is to combat intellectual property infringement having to do with all kinds of consumer products. The organization works with government and police to shut down counterfeiters.
In addition, auto parts are being marketed with the ability to confirm authenticity by the use of radio frequency identification tags. TRW will be using the devices on 90 percent of their boxed parts. These attempts to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters may not be enough, however, since many are now operating under multiple corporate identities.[Plastics News]