Parts Disputes Crank Up

It's been tough lately for proponents of non-OEM body shop parts. First, a non-OEM hood flew open during a dealership service department test drive apparently because of a latch failure. Then General Motors Corp., in a scathing report, claims non-OEM parts failed to meet minimum GM requirements for fit, finish, material content and assembly characteristics. Meanwhile, The two organizations designed

It's been tough lately for proponents of non-OEM body shop parts.

First, a non-OEM hood flew open during a dealership service department test drive — apparently because of a latch failure.

Then General Motors Corp., in a scathing report, claims non-OEM parts failed to meet minimum GM requirements for fit, finish, material content and assembly characteristics.

Meanwhile, The two organizations designed to validate non-OEM parts quality are taking pot shots at one another, each saying the other's certification process falls short.

“This is all good news for dealership body shops who want to use OEM parts, and for dealership parts departments that want to sell more parts,” says Tony Giacomino, parts manager of Ed Murphy Buick-Volkswagen in Schaumburg, IL.

The problem with the non-OEM hood designed for the 1995-2000 Toyota Tacoma came to light when a technician from a Toyota dealership was test driving a repaired 1997 Tacoma pickup after recharging the vehicle's air conditioning.

It's unclear whether the primary hood latch (a new OEM part) was fully engaged and failed, or if the hood had not been fully latched. But in either case, as the truck picked up speed, the secondary latch failed, the hood popped up and the truck hit a guardrail because the driver couldn't see ahead.

The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) decertified the part after determining that the secondary safety catch on the hood was at times positioned improperly, not allowing it to extend sufficiently into the latch to hold the hood securely.

Investigation by CAPA and the part distributor found that the distance between the striker and the secondary hood latch was off by about one-tenth of an inch. That's enough to keep the latch from catching sufficiently to hold the hood.

Jack Gillis, executive director of CAPA, said his organization decertified the part, manufactured by Jui Li Enterprise Co., within two weeks of the incident, and notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Two other non-OEM parts manufacturers produce the hood using the same tooling. But Gillis says checks of parts from these other manufacturers found no problems. The safety catch on the Jui Li hoods is a subcontracted assembly, he says, and “the quality of that subcontracted part was inconsistent” resulting in the catch being “sometimes improperly placed.”

CAPA faced criticism based on the findings of GM's study of 10 CAPA-certified replacement fenders and hoods made by three different non-OEM parts manufacturers and designed for a 1999-2001 Pontiac Grand Am.

GM says evaluations of material content show significant differences that affect the parts' performance in resisting minor dents and corrosion. The steel strength of the GM hood was up to 40% stronger and 80% harder than the tested CAPA hoods. On average, the tested CAPA hoods had 42% of the dent resistance compared to the GM hood. The steel used in the tested CAPA hoods was a different alloy and lower grade than the steel GM specifies for its parts.

In addition, the tested CAPA hoods had half or less of the primer thickness of the GM parts and were below GM requirements. Galvanized coatings on the CAPA hoods did not meet GM's thickness requirements. The GM report says these differences could “significantly reduce long-term corrosion performance.”

On average, 23.7% of the welds on the CAPA certified hood assemblies were found to have insufficient weld integrity compared to the GM specification. GM requirements also call for a continuous adhesive bond between the inner and outer hood panels around the perimeter of the hood; this adhesive was absent in the tested CAPA certified hoods.

Lastly, the CAPA products averaged 33.9% out-of-specification measurements when placed on GM OEM checking fixtures used to verify parts dimensions, gaps and contours. The non-OEM hoods in particular fared poorly; all three were high across the front on the driver side, for example, creating an unacceptable gap.

“When a customer needs replacement collision parts, they expect the parts to have the same look and performance characteristics as the parts that were originally installed on their vehicle,” says Jim Dalton, a manager for GM's Service and Parts Operations (SPO).

He adds, “These (non-OEM) parts would be unacceptable by GM for use as service or production parts.”

Gillis says the GM report is based on a very small sampling of parts.

But even proponents of the use of non-OEM crash parts are criticizing CAPA, and vice versa.

CAPA and a newer certification group — the Manufacturer's Qualification and Validation Program (MQVP) — each criticize the other's program as inadequate to assure parts quality.

Rather than certifying specific parts as CAPA does, MQVP focuses on certifying that a parts manufacturer has quality processes in place that meet internationally-established standards (ISO/QS-9000).

After CAPA issued a report saying many parts approved by MQVP do not meet CAPA standards or have not been certified by CAPA, MQVP fired back, saying its program “requires manufacturers to follow the ‘science of quality' required of all OEM suppliers,” while CAPA “requires manufacturers to meet a customized standard written by CAPA.”

Nationwide Insurance is the primary backer and advocate on the insurance side for MQVP. Allied Insurance (a subsidiary of Nationwide) and Grange Insurance have also endorsed the program. Most other insurers continue to support the CAPA certification process.

Keith Manich of Allstate says CAPA's program requires more than just quality process standards, because, as he puts it, it's possible to certify that a concrete life jacket was made using quality processes.

“It'll be a really good concrete life jacket, but it still won't float,” Mr. Manich says.

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