PROSSER, WA - New collision-repair research is raising concerns about the safety of some aftermarket crash parts requested by some insurance companies to settle claims, according to the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).
The research, overseen by SCRS National Director Toby Chess, compared randomly selected OEM parts with aftermarket structural replacement parts, including front and rear bumper reinforcement beams, radiator core supports, bumper brackets and bumper energy absorbers.
According to SCRS, tests revealed "significant differences" in the aftermarket parts' construction and materials used, compared to the OEM parts. These differences were reflected in the parts' effectiveness in the transfer of energy resulting from a collision, SCRS said.
The aftermarket parts also had an impact on the effectiveness and response of the vehicle safety restraint system, potentially affecting airbag functionality, SCRS added. However, the research also found that when aftermarket crash parts manufacturers pay particular attention to using the same materials as the OEM and employ credible third-party testing, the parts perform much better in crash tests.
"This is a serious issue that has not received enough attention from the industry in the past," Chess said. "These parts are critically affecting the structural design of a vehicle in its post-repair state."
As a result of the research, the Auto Body Parts Association has advised its members to distribute and supply only aftermarket crash parts that have been sufficiently tested. For parts that lack such testing, ABPA recommends "discontinuation of the production and sale of these part types as well as immediate notification to the estimating systems to eliminate these parts from their database."
A presentation summarizing the research is available at www.scrs.com. Chess has made a number of presentations about the research at recent industry conferences.
Chess stressed that the collision repair industry needs to hold parts manufacturers accountable for the quality and safety of their products.
"The OEMs put a lot of money into research and development to ensure that the end product operates, reacts and sustains damage in a very specific way," Chess explained. "Any replacement part made available to the market should be required to have that same expectation of performance."
SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg said a system needs to be in place so that aftermarket parts installed but later deemed unsafe can be readily recalled through consumer notification. "It is not enough to accept that suppliers will deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis if or when there is a problem," Schulenburg said. "If the process and infrastructure are not in place to support the ability to notify consumers when a problem has been identified, then we need to significantly fix that infrastructure before more parts are sold."
Efforts to bring attention to such concerns about aftermarket crash parts seem to be having an impact. Insurance company GEICO last week implemented a policy shift, announcing it would no longer specify aftermarket replacement parts for bumper reinforcements, energy absorbers and brackets in the repair of customers' vehicles.
The company said it planned to gather additional information about aftermarket bumper reinforcements, absorbers and brackets; GEICO didn't rule out eventually returning to its previous policy if its own research supported that decision.