Who's Watching Replacement Crash Parts?
NHTSA Continues to Ignore Crash Parts Industry
There has been considerable collision industry attention applied to replacement crash parts of late and in particular, aftermarket crash parts. One of the solutions offered by some has been to only use certified aftermarket crash parts.
This is a long, simmering issue. Whether the debate centers on new state laws allowing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts only for a specified period of time during the life of the vehicle, or insurers promising to encourage only the use of certified parts, this is a problem that has faced the collision industry for many years. The Automotive Service Association proposed in the 1990s that states should implement notice and written consent statutes for the use of all replacement crash parts. Automakers, dealers and repairers supported the concept of consumer notice and written consent but few states have implemented this policy due to the opposition of aftermarket crash parts distributors, aftermarket parts manufacturers and insurers.
Several organizations have advocated that only those aftermarket parts that are certified should be used by collision repairers. If this is the industry policy, who is to certify? The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) was established in 1987 "to promote price and quality competition in the collision part industry, thereby reducing the cost of crash repairs to consumers without sacrificing quality." There are multiple reasons CAPA has not resolved the problems we face today; 1) CAPA certifies a minuscule portion of the aftermarket parts in play in the United States, 2) too much influence by insurers, and 3) a lack of support by a significant number of collision repairers.
Attempts to force repairers and consumers to use only CAPA-certified parts have failed across the country. Related legislation at the state level has been introduced on multiple occasions in many states with little success.
Who should certify? Who pays? Should a certification program be voluntary or mandatory? These are questions that have plagued the certification effort for many years.
In addition to consumer notice and written consent, ASA has made an effort in previous administrations to have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) become involved in the inspection of aftermarket crash parts. ASA met with NHTSA administrators in both the Bush and the Clinton administrations with little success. ASA participated in a long-term strategy planning effort with NHTSA and other automotive industry segments. It encouraged NHTSA to adopt policies for inspecting imported and domestic aftermarket manufactured parts, but to date NHTSA has shown little interest. This includes used airbags.
ASA hosted NHTSA's chief of the Trend and Analysis Division in 1998 at a parts demonstration to illustrate ASA member concerns with quality and safety of some aftermarket crash parts. NHTSA recognized the quality concerns with the parts reviewed but refused to acknowledge any safety issues.
ASA worked with now former U.S. Congressman Ron Klink, D-Pa., and a senior member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in a request to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate aftermarket crash parts and NHTSA's role in its review. The results of the GAO investigation published in 2001 did include recommendations for both aftermarket crash parts and used airbags. The GAO report was very clear that NHTSA has the authority to regulate after_market crash parts and a limited authority to regulate used airbags.
Similar to NHTSA's meetings with ASA collision leaders, it was evident that there was no comprehensive study that "resolves the issue of safety." According to the report: "NHTSA has broad authority to set safety standards for aftermarket crash parts. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act provides NHTSA with the authority to prescribe safety standards for new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle equipment sold in interstate commerce - a category that includes aftermarket crash parts. Although NHTSA has the authority to regulate aftermarket crash parts, it has not determined that these parts pose a significant safety concern and therefore has not developed safety standards for them. The act also provides NHTSA with more limited authority to prescribe safety performance standards for used motor vehicles in order to encourage and strengthen state motor vehicle inspection programs.
"Because NHTSA may set motor vehicle safety standards for vehicle systems (like brakes and lights) as well as for an entire vehicle, the agency could elect to develop safety standards for occupant restraint systems, which could incorporate airbags, under the used vehicle provision. NHTSA has not developed such standards because it has not identified significant problems with occupant restraint systems that could be addressed by state motor vehicle inspection programs."
The report also noted that "NHTSA's defect identification and recall system has limitations."
ASA has called on NHTSA to exercise its authority to regulate aftermarket crash parts. Without a national approach to address aftermarket crash parts concerns, the collision industry is left with a voluntary certification system that has not been embraced by the industry or voluntary insurer, parts manufacturer commitments. Is this an appropriate system that will protect consumers and repair shop owners? Not likely.
To review the GAO Crash Parts report and related documents, please go to ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com.
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