By on August 16, 2011

For some time now, there’s been something of a low-scale war going on between OEMs and aftermarket parts suppliers just below the national media radar. The issue: whether or not aftermarket structural parts are as good as OEM parts. Ford has been a major proponent of the OEM-only approach, making the video you see above in hopes of proving that aftermarket parts aren’t up to the job. But the aftermarket is firing back, and they’ve made their own video in direct response to this one, which you can view after the jump.

The video above, made by the Automotive Body Parts Association, directly challenges the findings of Ford’s video experiments, arguing that they prove only that “motorists should avoid slowly driving into madmen wielding reciprocating saws.” In a press release, Co-Chair of the ABPA Legislation and Regulation Committee Eileen A. Sottile lays out her industry’s position

Time and again the aftermarket industry has demonstrated the safety and quality of its products, yet some car companies seem determined to counter scientific facts with fear-mongering. OEs cannot credibly argue that only their branded parts can provide safety, especially when it comes to components that play a very small role in crash energy management. If car company safety systems cannot handle a wide range of real world crash conditions and material differences in minor replacement parts then they are not robustly engineered and as such are a significant threat to the consumers.

You can read a compilation of material on the debate over at bodypartbusiness.com if you want to dive deeper into the argument, but it seems to me that the aftermarket is always going to face a single challenge again and again: branding. Whereas the OEMs can put their brands on their products, consumers will always be wary of parts made by different companies. Some consumers will always buy off-brand in hopes of a deal, but when safety is at stake, trust is of the utmost importance. Buyers trust brands, whereas the aftermarket’s myriad companies can’t all have the prominence of, say, a Ford… and they can’t all guarantee the exact same quality either. Still, that doesn’t mean the OEMs aren’t unnecessarily fearmongering…

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52 Comments on “Ford, Aftermarket Tangle Over Collision Replacement Parts...”


  • avatar
    ott

    Gotta say, Ford asked for that one…

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    I for one bow to my new chinese masters.

  • avatar
    jj99

    The Ford policy is UAW friendly. When you buy Ford parts, you are not paying for a better part. You are paying for a more expensive part that contains a premium price in order to cover UAW wages and benefits. This increases your insurance premium.

    Do you want your daughter, who may be a highly educated and hardworking nurse without a gold plated pension paying extra for insurance just so an undeducated person can retire early with gold plated benefits and wages? Something has gone wrong in our country.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Your argument is insulting to anyone with a brain, “undeducated” or not.

      Even without the typo, your UAW stereotype is obsolete. Many union workers have post graduate degrees in the fields they are paid union wages to do.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      “Do you want your daughter, who may be a highly educated and hardworking nurse without a gold plated pension paying extra for insurance just so an undeducated person can retire early with gold plated benefits and wages? Something has gone wrong in our country.”

      Clearly the way forward for our country is to insist that everyone purchase products manufactured exclusively by Chinese slave labor, because otherwise they might affect your daughter’s insurance premium.

      Something has gone wrong, all right.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      jj99,

      The UAW is money well spent for Ford these days. Notice the media blackout on Ford’s body count in the past couple years? I guess the media was worried ratings would fall if they ran another season of recall mania. I can’t agree with you about the nobility of the nursing profession, at least not in this union afflicted state. I know a nurse who makes six figures with a GED, a 2 year certificate, and the common sense God gives a labrador retriever. Her peer group consists of gambling junkies that sleep irregularly and travel weekly. I’m not too worried about their finances, except in how I have to pay for their found money attitude to life.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        I know a nurse with a BS in nursing from a very good college, working on an MS. She works midnights in the ICU. She makes less than the UAW worker. You want her to pay extra for insurance just because it benefits the UAW? That is so wrong.

        This has nothing to do with part quality. It is political. It has everything to do with UAW feed. Ford wants everyone to help foot the bill.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …and the common sense God gives a labrador retriever…

        I’ve had to stomach the anti-union BS for a long time, but now you’ve hit below the belt.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @golden2husky – My Dad’s saying was “And without the common sense God gave an ordinary farm goose.” But you still made me lol.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      If you support the UAW you buy something UAW-made. If you don’t support the UAW, you buy something else.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Except that Ford is trying to force your insurance dollars into UAW parts. I thought this was a free country?

        How do you like your insurance dollars going to UAW parts, then the UAW donates to politicans that jam socialized medicine down your throats?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        jj99, that is exactly my point. In buying a new car or replacement parts it is up to the buyer to decide which way to go, UAW-made or not.

        Insurance companies will not be dictated what and where they can buy. They go the cheapest route, and that is usually foreign-made or made in the US by non-unionized aftermarketers. In many cases it is salvaged from junk yards, and may be significantly older than the vehicle being repaired (aka an exact replacement of an earlier model that fits the model being repaired).

        America is still a free country and you always have the choice what and where to buy, even if Ford wants you to buy UAW-made.

        I recently ordered a used trunklid for my buddy’s 1987 Camry through the national network of junk yards and wreckers and the lid we got was made in Japan in 1989. Perfect fit, all we had to do was spray it the right color.

        Lots of Ford parts are made in Mexico and that is still a UAW-free zone.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      jj99 Ford buys a lot of parts from non UAW suppliers. Your argument is more a matter of trolling and baiting than it is factual.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Agree w/you John.

        Besides it is so free a country, that if jj99 were really serious, and true to his words, given that Ford has been a UAW company for like 80 years, jj99 could just buy another non-UAW OEM’s product.

        Only affirmative defense here might be if he was really slow on the uptake, or failed to recognize that some decisions involve an exclusive choice …

        And from my experience in the industry, what Ford is doing here is not qnique, or even very unusual Ford is just trying to build traffic and sales for their dealers and aftermarket parts operations (used to be called SPO & FCSD)…

        In Socialist Europe, OEM’s and dealers have to push hard because the Block Exemption allows the supply base, provided they do not use the OEM’s tools, to sell their products directly to the market (cutting out the OEM & delaers and their profits on the sale of the part.)

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      It’s worth mentioning that Koch brothers-funded organizations have been caught paying individuals a spiff for every call or post they make that promotes right-wing views on call-in talk shows or discussion websites. Just sayin’…

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Sometime Google “Schloss Blühnbach”, and you can get a glimpse of the Koch’s Summer European shack… It’s even more impressive in the satellite pic…

    • 0 avatar
      eldard

      More like do you want to keep supporting Walmart and booze companies by buying UAW-made cars?

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Competition and diversity is good.
    The purpose of mending a vehicle is not the same as the purpose of originally building a vehicle. Expecting a 50,000 mile vehicle to be replaced with parts from the OEM only benefits the OEM.

    Additionally, the integrity of a vehicle is compromised once it’s cherry is popped, so to say. It cannot be replaced. OEM is making the case that it can be, but that really isn’t so. Miles and natural aging change a vehicle. You cannot restore virginity.

    OEM is a nice luxury. They are nice to have. However, they are not always must have.

    • 0 avatar

      I definitely want OEM parts on my Honda. Non-OEM don’t last as long.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      For mechanical items, OEM may or may not be the best choice. But structural items? Sorry, but cheap offshore parts made to some money making, cost cutting, slave labor standard is not anything that belongs on any car. Your life is just worth too much. Non crash related parts? Maybe, but even then the parts maker stands nothing to lose. In fact the OEM still stands to lose because when a car is sold and a poor quality panel rots out, the general public will assume that the part was Ford (or whatever) not a cheap Chinese sourced POS.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Sorry, it’s OEM parts for me …

      I can just imagine some Chinese manufacturing plant having the discussion with his material supplier “Boron Steel? We don’t need no Boron in our stinking steel. Stop trying to rip us off!”

  • avatar
    tikki50

    while I do think aftermarket parts are of equal quality its only when you spend top dollar on said after marketparts about equal to the cost of the OEM part. I’ve found OEM parts to continously perform as expected on replacements while AMP vary, why, mostly because they are half the cost which means about half the quality. Im not stating this about airbags, but wearables, like discs, shocks, brakes, etc. that’s just been MY experience with parts, which means alot to me.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      In my area cannibalizing parts from junkyard vehicles is big (I mean REALLY BIG) business. All the junk yards in my area are networked with the rest of the country and you can get whatever you want from this parts network. Of course you have to pay the freight to get it.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Being in the automotive repair business and having a brother who was in the body shop side of the business I can tell you that most of the aftermarket crash parts out there are not as good as quality as the OEM. Not fitting quite right and a problem with corrosion is not uncommon at all. I’d rather have wrecking yard collision repair parts than new aftermarket in just about every case.

    In the case of structural parts the proper repair procedures is key to safety. A shop that cuts the price by using cheap parts is also likely to cut corners in areas that can’t be seen that could have an affect on future collision performance.

    On the other hand the aftermarket can’t make exact duplicates of many of the parts and they certainly can’t afford to go to crash test an example of every model they make parts for. With OEM it is the same part that has been tested as part of the crash protection system as a whole.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Funny. Many non UAW cars have lots of Chinese parts in them when new. Yet, they have less reliability issues than good old Detroit metal. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It’s not about any particular brand of car or UAW vs non UAW, even if this is a video from Ford. OEM parts fit right and aftermarket ones often don’t. They often don’t have the OEM level of corrosion protection either.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Not everything is about unions. Honda doesn’t have any US unions in its factories, and Honda OEM body parts are nearly always made of better materials and to tighter tolerances than are the aftermarket parts out there. But hey, don’t listen to people who actually work on vehicles and see the differences in various parts. Not everything is cause for union bashing.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Scoutdude, please don’t feed the troll. Union or not is irrelevant. The quality standard of the part is what matters. Even a Chinese made part that is produced for an OEM is made to the standard of that OEM. Aftermarket parts may be as well, but there is no way of knowing.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        There is nothing inherently wrong with “Chinese Parts”… OEM’s using such parts, have put them through full durability and safety test cycles.

        And one must be careful to distinguish what “Chinese” means; oftentimes, such parts are only made in China by Western-based suppliers. T

        he real difference of importance is whether the parts are made by the people that did the development and testing of them, not where they are made.

      • 0 avatar
        kenzter

        I doubt an OEM plant in China looks like this….

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_YnaHNcISw

        These guys need a union.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I am not a fan of unibody cars where the structural integrity has been compromised or those that have had new body panels welded in.

      I know a guy who has a shop that specializes in body and frame straightening, including re-aligning unibody cars, and it is rare to get the vehicle to track correctly ever again.

      Best thing to do is trade it for a new one and let it be someone else’s problem.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        This guy that you know must not be doing it correctly if his cars don’t track properly after repairs. Twenty-five years ago I took body shop class at a community college taught by a body shop owner, and we had a laser-frame-alignment machine back then (so it’s a mature technology these days). You hang targets at various points under the vehicle and shine a laser through them, to know what parts of the car are out of their original position, by how much, and in which direction. And the car doesn’t leave the machine until everything is back in order (at a good shop, anyways). It does take an experienced person do do this well I will be the first to admit.

        Back on-topic, my observation tends to jive with others here regarding the aftermarket parts being inferior than the OEM ones (with an exception being parts made by the same manufacturer, but also sold directly to the aftermarket w/o the customer’s logo or p/n). Especially true with regards to headlight assemblies, which I would never, ever recommend buying apart from OEM.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        +1 redmondjp

        If you can’t get a unibody car straightened, you’re using the wrong machine. The one I used to use clamped at four points on the pinch welds (just after the front wheels and before the rears) and was surrounded by four hydrolic rams with chains attached. Using lasers, computerized measurements and bolt to bolt pointers, you’d pull the car at certain locations until it was within specification.

        Oh, and non-oem parts are completely inferior. They lack proper adjustability or are thinner or have inferior rustproofing

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I’m reasonably sure this guy has the latest and greatest gear. He’s been in business a long time. I’ve seen some of his work, and it looks good, but after a while you can see from the tread wear on a car that has been straightened if the car tracks correctly or not.

        Regardless, I would steer clear of any car that had its unibody structural integrity compromised. BOF is a little different, but I would not knowingly choose to buy one of those either.

        Before my relatives and their partners take any vehicle in trade one of the tests they perform is the laser test along the body 4 ways with mirrors, and the other is the wet tire tracking test. You can’t be too careful these days.

    • 0 avatar

      Consumer Reports did a piece on OEM vs. Aftermarket years ago, and specifically noted the increased corrosion.

      I’ll stick with OEM, thank you.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    There may be SOME aftermarket body parts which are fully up to the quality standard of OEM parts, but they are the exception in my experience. Sometimes I buy the aftermarket parts because I’m willing to accept the lower quality in return for a much lower price, but not always. I recently replaced one of the outside mirror’s on our Sonata with an aftermarket unit, and it is ok, but clearly not as well made at the Hyundai original.

    In fact, I have rarely seen an aftermarket automotive body part which is made as well as the OEM part.

    • 0 avatar
      roamer

      +1. When I need body work done, I ask the dealer which shop they use. Invariably, those shops only use OEM parts – not because of a relationship with the dealer (they’re still paying full price) but due to fit, finish, and durability reasons.

  • avatar
    morbo

    OEM or not, someone explain to me why the replacement bumper and fog lights for a 5 years old Fusion costs $2,000 installed? Granted that was the price GEICO quoted as being charged by the autobody shop and I’m only paying deductible (for a family member’s driving ‘skill’), but still.

    • 0 avatar

      I just did a quickie estimate on my database for a Fusion and just replacing the ‘basic’ parts of the bumper and the fogs (using aftermarket bumper cover, moldings and fog lamps) I came up with $1358 before adding any ‘fluff’. So depending on what it needed, 2 grand may not be unrealistic.

      I deal with this debate on a daily basis as an adjuster. I also look at a lot of repaired cars with a/m parts. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was 10 years ago (and I had that Consumer Report article referenced earlier). Yes, we do still have some fit issues, but they are much more rare. Honestly, if a part doesn’t fit right we reject it (and the shop should too; if they put out a piece of crap, what does that say about their work?). I’ve not seen corrosion issues on anything so far other than chrome bumpers, but these parts are generally warranted ‘forever’ so they can be replaced if needed at no cost to the consumer. There are certain brands that aftermarket consistently fails on; VWs are my prime example. OTOH, we’ve had cases where oem dies are so worn out the a/m parts actually fit better. Don’t condemn the parts before you try them. Lastly, very few structural pieces get made by the a/m. It’s much more cost effective for them to just make bumpers and fenders, not radiator supports or other welded in parts that are critical for fit and shops are reluctant to use. It’s very rare we find something in that realm that isn’t a low-line part made for patching a old turd car together (that’s a different market and we don’t bother with those pieces).

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        Huh… I’m actually surprised that $2k is in the realm of reality. Hell I’m surprised $1.4k is reasonable. One of those things where I’m stuck in the ‘old’ prices, where a bumper was a piece of structural electrochromed steel with rubber housings and not much else.

        Still can’t get over that molded thermoset plastics with foam inserts etc. on modern cars cost that much.

        Could’ve been worse I guess. Not sure I want to know replacing structural parts would cost.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yeah but who wants a bumper that looks like crap after a year then you have to go in and bitch loose some of your time and use of the car for a while and then repeat in another year hoping the shop will still be there and honor that forever warranty again.

    • 0 avatar
      mopar4wd

      Another adjuster here. Personally I never had much of a problem with aftermarket parts. I’m kind of lucky the company I work for does not use aftermarket for most part (structural parts air bags seat belts would all be non issues here) We usually write for used parts first that way we can say it’s OEM but recycled. On the parts we do use aftermarket headlights for instance if it won’t fit right or looks wrong we pay the shop to put in OEM. If you have a question about what your insurance would do I would contact a large local body shop that does a lot of insurance work they will know most of the companies they deal with polices and will likely give you a better answer then the insurance company. Now I do talk to a lot of body guys and most of them will tell you quite a few horror stories working with aftermarket body panels.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Seven years ago, give or take a few, I got a 45-minute (?) disc at a car show that compared the Ford F-150 to Chevrolet, Dodge, and Nissan or Toyota. Part after part was compared throughout the whole truck. I can believe some cherry-picking was going on but there was not one part that beat the same part in the Ford.

    The F-150 frame and crossmembers were head-and-shoulders above the others. When the guy dropped the rear end ring gears on the table, it was painfully embarrassing what some were offering. Same with the shocks and shock mounting.

    The current duel is over crash parts; I put my money on the OEMs that have to certify the vehicle and have the resources to build it right and prove it’s right in a courtroom.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Sounds like most of us agree. There are high-quality aftermarket parts out there, and there are bad ones. If I ask for OEM, at least I know what I’m getting.

    I bought an aftermarket side-view mirror for my old Sentra, and the mirror vibrated enough to be near useless at almost any speed. imo, there isn’t enough control over what qualifies as a replacement part because there’s no way that mirror could’ve met any reasonable design specifications.

    • 0 avatar
      namstrap

      Yup. I’ve experienced that myself a few times.
      Still, when the OEM mirror of a car vintage 1997 is in the hundreds of dollars, it’s hard to beat the economy of the off-shore ones. The rest of the car is a piece of crap anyway.
      Different market.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Years ago I bought an AM fender for my Scirocco. It fit more or less OK, under a coat of paint it was good enough when I knew I wouldn’t be keeping the car much longer.

    There’s steel and then there’s steel. To suggest they’re the same is like saying all wines are equal quality.

    Recently had to have a fight with my Allstate adjuster when he wanted to OK AM parts for my current car which I plan to hold onto. I told him that I would accept AM parts IF he could provide me with metallurgical analyses showing that the AM steel was the equivalent to OEM, and document that they had the same anticorrosion processes. He dropped the argument and specified OEM or recycled parts.

    • 0 avatar
      namstrap

      Here in British Columbia, we can, for about $25 a year, insist on OEM parts, no matter what.
      As a partsman in a new car dealer, I try to inform people of that option. It’s not widely known.

  • avatar
    iantm

    A few years ago, I had a nasty accident with my Ford focus. I asked the claims adjuster if aftermarket or OEM parts were on the estimate and that my preference was OEM. He told me that the OEM parts for my car were actually cheaper than “good” aftermarket parts and tend to be less costly for them in the long run. That said, the body panels and structural parts are my car are still 100% OEM. I’m just not interested in dealing with the aftermarket parts due to the high percentage of counterfeit parts out there. When I worked as a technician, we used to see counterfeit Brembo rotors come in all the time through our “trusted” parts vendor. After the shop owner said he didn’t give a shit when I raised issue with the counterfeit parts, I stopped referring friends and family to him.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Man that was a self-loving, piece of garbage video Ford put out. You could see the grease monkey holding the say up so it wouldn’t cut as fast through the Focus bumper. I wouldn’t surprised if Ford made those “faulty” pieces just to say how much better they are. This video seems about as honest at their Egoboost “Torture test” videos.

    What a disgraceful, money-hungry company.

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    The key issue here is disclosure. If you’re paying for the repair yourself the repairer should disclose what parts are included in their quotation – you choose what quality level you are comfortable with. If it’s an insurance job, then the insurer should clearly disclose their OEM vs. AM practice upfront in their policy document. Again, you choose what quality level you want and are willing to pay for. What irritates me is when the customer has paid (or thought they’d paid) for OEM quality but is served with something cheaper and likely inferior. If they know what they’re getting – no problem.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    When my 2000 GMC Sierra was “moderately” (The body shop’s term) damaged in a wreck with two (both totalled) vehicles, I got to see how bad aftermarket parts can be. The front bumper they put on literally rusted in a week, it had little speckles of rust on it. They replaced it with a new OEM one after the insurance company stepped in. All in all, they (State Farm) spent more than my truck was worth to fix it, and it was never right. Between the brake issues, water leaks from the rear doors, and a string of bizarre electrical issues, it was a mess, and soon, I got rid of it. Why it wasn’t totaled in the first place, I don’t know.

  • avatar
    collision tech

    Thirty yr. collision repair man here. I have installed thousand of aftermarket parts and only a hand full WITHOUT defects. I have installed thousands of OEM parts ford ,Honda, Chevy ,etc. Only a hand full WITH defects. The quality is not the same period. some aftermarket parts are so bad they cannot even be used. To confirm what I have said ask any body man that repairs cars and they will tell you the same.


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