CAPA Parts: Good News and Bad News

December 1, 2008 by
Filed under: Collision Repair Industry 

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.

Click to enlarge the photo.
As you can see, a nice soft hit.
As you can see, a nice soft hit.


This is not supposed to happen.
This is not supposed to happen.


Not a weld or drop of adhesive holding on this skin. That blob of goo is supposed to be holding the rib to the skin, but it feels like a sponge.
Not a weld or drop of adhesive holding on this skin. That blob of goo is supposed to be holding the rib to the skin, but it feels like a sponge.

 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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11 Comments on CAPA Parts: Good News and Bad News

  1. john fagan on Thu, 4th Dec 2008 8:01 am
  2. General Motors deos not seem as concerned about thier quality issues as CAPA. I bought a hood for a 04 Tahoe, painted it off the car when it came in, then installed it. It had this same problem, no glue around the hemmed flanges which I noticed when the pressure of the hinges pushed the hood frame away from the hood skin. The dealership would not pay for painting another hood, only replace the hood. They gave me a number at General Motors to call but they seemed unconcerned and said that the dealership would have to handle it. I finaly got reembursed for materials, but that was all. So there are problems on both sides. I still prefer OEM but they should take a lesson from aftermarket and stand behind their products betterl.

  3. Bob Isham on Tue, 3rd Mar 2009 8:01 am
  4. We have had success with CAPA and Intertek getting several parts decertified.
    Sadly we have the gut feeling they really don’t want to decertify them unless
    they are pushed to the wall and a safety issue is present they will be slow to
    decertify a part.

    We had a headlight, obvious crap, wrong color, wrong size adjusters, wrong
    screws, etc.,etc.. They did not decertify it because they said “you did not
    see those issues with the hood closed”. I am not sold on the idea that Intertek
    is a straight up group but he beats returning the garbage to Keystone since
    you get paid for the part, and handling the packing.

    If everyone in our industry was able to return one part a year and get it decertified the problem with imitation parts would go away.

  5. Bob Isham on Tue, 22nd Sep 2009 1:22 pm
  6. John-
    Excellent overview. Frankly I think Keystone may be a dead horse in the not too distant future. I think the Keystone owners knew the handwriting was on the wall when they peddled the company to “LKQ”. The GM and Chrysler programs of matching prices have to be kicking their butts. Toyota is supposed to be coming on line with a similar program and Nissan is trying hard to compete.

    We have had relatively good luck with Intertek but “safety” is the main issue not crappy fit. Our process is to examine the part we are fighting about and compare all the things (welds, size, weight, e-coat etc.) and hand them the info on a silver platter. Of course they decertify the parts but we know they will come back under a separate part number and it must start all over again at square one.

    The key, as you said, is for more people to get involved in decertifying these parts. If each shop sent one part back a year (40,000 shops) would bury them.

    Our customers did not buy a generic mobile and original parts should be used to repair them. How can a lousy bumper or hood “manage the energy” in the crash and deploy the airbag when the part does not meet OEM standards?

  7. Bob Isham on Wed, 7th Oct 2009 12:53 pm
  8. I would like to comment on John Fagan’s statement that GM should take a lesson from the aftermarket and stand tall. Over the years we have send the Keystone people waffle and deny obvious defects. Our personal experiences with GM and other OEM’s have been a lot better. Only when their backs are against the wall will Keystone step up to the plate. A neighbor shop showed Keystone who bad all the sheet metal was on a Camry, poorly made and did not fit, bad welds, etc.. They initially agreed to compensate the shop for all it’s expenses (paint, labor, etc) BUT once they realized the cost they took the offer completely off the table. Some warranty those guys have.

    No matter how you slice it or dice it the collision shops in America need to start
    returning parts to Intertek/Capa and show them the crap that Keystone is peddling. This will expose the fraud and end the use of these parts.

    I applaud GM (and Chrysler) for their “matching” price policies and I only wish more OEM’s would come on board for this program.

    Let’s be clear that imitation parts are “BAD” and do not measure up to OEM. We have seen some bad OEM stuff but we are able to return it (before painting) and they have supplied us with another part that is not defective.

  9. Tim on Wed, 2nd May 2012 7:12 pm
  10. Sorry Bob, LKQ and Keystone are doing just fine.That dead horse still has plenty of life. The reason Keystone sold to LKQ is $48.00 cash per stock. The stock was trading at $22.00 in 2007. This was a no brainer for share holders.

  11. Tim on Wed, 2nd May 2012 8:08 pm
  12. As for the GM and Chrysler kicking the butt of Keystone. The reason for the price match is because Keystone market share is growing. The O.E. supplier see the hand writing on the wall. Their monoploy on the parts business is gone. In order to sell their parts they are going to have to be competitive with market pricing. They are able to price match, because the same Asian suppliers are producing their service parts. The parts you receive at your shop are produced by the same Asian suppliers, that produce A/M parts. If insurers stop wtiting A/M parts for collision repairs. There will be an increased totaling of cars. Which means the body shop will suffer further in this process. You collect only towing and storage. The consumer loses their car ,which the owe more than it is worth. Putting a strain on them to payoff that car and purchase another. Insurer pay more per claim for totals and O.E. increases their price of the parts, because of no competition in the market place. Insurance rate increase and the consumer, shop and insurer loses. Their is a time and place for A/M parts. How many body shop customers purchase hard parts from a O.E. dealer. Brakes are much more important then a grille or sheet metal on a car. The fact that insurance is absorbing in most cases 90% of the cost to repair the collision. Leads consumers not to care about the cost of their repair. They are only on the hook for a $250 deductible. if the repair cost $2500 0r $5,000. My two brothers own Mech. Repair Shop and they have let then 1% of the customers ever request O.E.M. parts be used in their repair. The same customer at your shop would insist you use only O.E. parts in their collision repair. Based solely on the shop pushing O.E. and no extra out of pocket expenses. Also when shop owners or their childeren wreck their personal cars. They call their local A/M supplier looking for the best deal on parts to reduce the cost of repair. So, their seems to be a double standard based on who is paying for the repair. If, the parts are good enough to install on their car or their children’s car. How are they now inferior to put on a car the insurance company is paying for the repair on. As far as warranty go Keystone by far exceeds the O.E.. Lifetime Vs. 12 months offered by the O.E. supplier. Keystone has replace bumpers as old as 5 to 6 years old due to rust or fading.O.E. will not meet this warranty. If you need proof, look at the number of Expeditions with faded door and bumper cladding. If it did not appeared before the 36K warranty expires. You are on you own. The cost to repair comes out of the consumers pocket. And, final the reason insurers began writing A/M parts, is due to paying for O.E. parts in the late 80’s. And the shops used A/M to repair the car. Making around 300% profit on parts. Thus, insurers began to write A/M parts in an effort to reduce repair cost.

  13. Bob Isham on Thu, 3rd May 2012 8:30 am
  14. Tim you are really in the tank for imitation parts. Sounds like you might have voted for Nobama and think he is a great President.

    As for Keystone I can tell you the sales figures are buried in LKQ’s total results. With LKQ acquiring yards and locations all over the world it is impossible to put numbers on the Keystone growth figures but I can tell you the OEM people are selling the hell out of their “price match” parts.

    I guess there are people that go in the store and see rotten and over ripe strawberries next to the real beautiful pristine fresh red ones and yet they still buy the rotten ones. Bottom line is the real good ones sell better than the rotten ones.

    While I don’t know about mechanical shop customers not caring about OEM parts I can tell you that 99% of my customers want the real McCoy. The bring it up before I do and it is very important to them. I network with a lot of “upper end” shops and they all use OEM stuff and their customers all want those parts. Of course they learned a long time ago “to work for the vehicle owner, not the insurer”.

    Bottom line is that you can rant all you want about the quality of imitation parts but we have seen, touched, measured, felt, examined them and the operative word is they are “crap”.

  15. Ed Ghosn on Thu, 6th Jun 2013 5:33 pm
  16. Bob, I run a research firm that conducts deep research on companies and industries typically as it relates to investors.

    Currently, I am conducting research pertaining to the aftermarket vs OEM parts markets, with focus on the dance-off between the OEM’s and the aftermarket parts distributors. I’ve found your commentary to be very enlightening, especially in light of all the moving pieces and the players driving the decisions made. There are some things I’ve heard might be happening, but that I’m having a hard time proving; it seems you know this stuff backwards and forwards, and much more than I do.

    Would you mind emailing me at [ trualpha at gmail dot com ] to perhaps set up a quick phone call?

  17. Jake Akin on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 12:58 pm
  18. I am fighting with my insurance company over using the manufacturer hood instead of a piece of crap certified hood. if it was a screw that held my tail lamp on, or even my tail light cover, fine…but this is my frickin hood…the thing that’s supposed to protect me from from end collisions. the difference between the 3 parts in dispute is $400. I have paid them on time for over 5 years and they’re going to argue over a couple hundred dollars (my premiums have amounted to over $6k in that 5 years). Screw the adjuster, and screw my agent. I’m just another number on a sheet with how much I pay them each year…and I have finally lost it.

    insurance companies don’t deserve to be spit on if their buildings were on fire.

  19. Leigh on Thu, 1st May 2014 11:57 am
  20. I recently purchased one of these aftermarket hoods. It was installed properly, but dented upon closing. I didn’t think too much of it, as there is other damage to my car. It wasn’t until after driving 140 miles at speeds above 70mph that the hood SPLIT OPEN at the seam at the driver side by the windshield, which then caused the whole blasted thing to fly open while on a busy highway. It caused so much damage (thankfully it didn’t hit my windshield!) that my car has been totaled out by the insurance company. I am incredibly lucky to be alive, as are my children.

    I will NEVER buy an aftermarket part again.

  21. Tj90 on Wed, 30th Oct 2019 7:18 pm
  22. I’m fighting with farmers now. I’m being told they wasnt to use capa for fender and headlight. I’m thinking that the only way is to pay difference for oem and sue policy holder for difference. I’ve requested from insurance the data – safety and environmental – that shows the part is equivalent to oem…..

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