CAPA Parts: Good News and Bad News
First, I want to issue a warning to those of you using aftermarket hoods. I just had a serious failure of a CAPA certified hood made by Gordon for a 2000 – 2002 Toyota Echo. A couple of months ago we repaired an Echo that hit a deer. The customer didin’t want the vehicle totaled and we ended up putting a CAPA certified hood on the car. The hood actually fit nicely. Last week the car was back after hitting another deer. This time it hit dead center of the hood. The damage was to the front and top, not like it had just rear ended another car, but soft damage. You’ve all seen this type of damage before. It certainly should not have compromised the structural integrity of any hood. But as the following pictures show, this minor impact peeled this hood apart.
Needless to say, we won’t be using a CRAPA part when we repair the car this time. I wonder how many other Gordon hoods are out there will nothing but a crimp and a few blobs of gooey sponge-like material holding the hood skin to the frame. A good hard collision could peel that skin completetly off and send it slicing through someone’s windshield. These parts will do absolutely nothing to absorb any of the impact energy.
That’s the bad news.
Immediately after opening this hood and finding this mess I went right to CAPA’s website and filled out a complaint form. Amazingly, someone from CAPA called me within ten minutes. They wanted photos and the CAPA seal number off the part. I emailed the photos posted above, and a photo of the CAPA seal. Any time we use a CAPA part we stick the seal right to the repair order just in case something like this happens. A few minutes later CAPA called again. They wanted measurements of the mangled hood so they could build a custom crate and have it shipped to us. They are even paying us for our time.
Now let me clarify something here. When I said CAPA called, it wasn’t really CAPA. And here is the good news. CAPA has farmed out its testing to a company called Intertek. Intertek is a materials testing company. That’s all they do. They appear to be an uninterested, independent company. Not uninterested as in they don’t care, but as in they have no financial ties to the crappy parts like CAPA does. These are professional testers, engineers. Not Jack Gillis and his pals swapping parts over a twelve pack.
For those of you like me who see aftermarket parts as nothing more than a money saving scheme for insurance companies, and a drain on the collision repair industry’s financial well being, this may seem like bad news because an independent testing company can help improve the quality of aftermarket parts, making them more saleable. But I’m sure it will get this particular hood off of CAPA’s list. I certainly don’t have much faith in the quality of cheap knock off parts rising to equal OEM parts. As the quality has risen, so has the prices. Some OEM’s are matching the aftermarket prices. Some of these counterfeit parts and very close in price now to the originals. More proof that you do get what you pay for.
As the prices of these parts continue to rise, so too dos the profits for shops using them. The typical aftermarket part has a 40% profit margin built into it, where you’re lucky to make 30% on domestic OEM parts and 20% on foreign parts. If the parts really do get better, good enough to use regularly you can be sure insurers will pressure Keystone to adjust it’s pricing structure to lower that built in profit margin. Insurers want more aftermarket parts being used to save them money, but in order for quality to rise to an acceptable level, prices will have to follow. It kind of defeats the purpose, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be something to witness the insurance industry destroy it’s own Frankenstein creation–the aftermarket parts industry–because they can’t get quality at cheap prices?
With professional testers like Intertek in control of the quality of these counterfeit parts several things could happen. The parts become safer and fit better, but the prices rise. CAPA’s certification list shrinks dramatically, leaving parts that by pure luck actually fit, or CAPA finds Intertek’s testing too rigorous and finds another company to take over.
Knowing nothing about Intertek I shouldn’t be assuming that their tesing is any better than anyone else’s. Judging by their response to my complaint, they’re interested in quality control. Again, that’s good news. Either we get decent parts to work with in those instances where aftermarket is the best choice, or the improved quality creates a pricing problem for Keystone. Quality and cheap are not compatible. The imcompatibility will become even stronger as Asia crawls its way out of the dark ages and the people start getting paid for their work.
This is the second time I have filed a complaint with CAPA. Both times they were right on it. I know it takes time and effort, but unless you take that time, you will continue to lose money trying to make these parts fit. Some shops can get away without using any aftermarket parts. I was in that situation working at a high end dealership. Now, working in a small shop in a small town where so many of the vehicles we work on are 5 to 10 year old economy cars, aftermarket parts are a fact of life. Otherwise minor hits would be total losses. If you’re in the same situation, take the time to complain about parts that don’t fit.
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