The report, carried out by by consultant engineer Alan Deering and commissioned by the Northern Ireland Bodyshop Alliance (Niba) says that the quality and performance of non-original parts compared to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts was “stark”.
“In this substantive study, and from the analysis and testing undertaken, it is my opinion that there were notable differences between OEM and non-OEM parts tested which may affect performance, and, ultimately, the safety of drivers and pedestrians,” Deering told The Irish Times.
“If it were my own car, I would request OEM parts. I would certainly feel more comfortable with these than if non-genuine parts were fitted as the best quality can only be assured in this instance.”
The parts used – in this instance, body panels – were subjected to rigorous mechanical, chemical and microscopic testing to determine the findings. Each of the various parts tested were installed in a Ford Focus, a Volkswagen Golf and a Peugeot 206.
Niba chairman Richard Hastings said that “the study highlights the real dangers involved for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists in Northern Ireland, where it appears that, after vehicles have been involved in a collision, insurance companies are trying to cut costs by having non-genuine parts fitted rather than the manufacturer’s parts.“This report underlines our assertion that the practice, which can compromise the cars’ safety integrity, is completely flawed.
“Drivers who have been unfortunate to have been involved in a collision – no matter who is at fault – should also be concerned that the practice can often affect the vehicle resale value and limit or invalidate the car’s warranty.”
It seems that pressure is being put on vehicle repairers to use cheaper “pattern” parts by the insurance industry.
Profits from motor insurance have plummeted in recent years following a period of cut-throat competition for cheaper premiums. In order to keep premiums some way affordable, and boost profits, it seems that insurers are putting the squeeze on body shops to use cheaper material.
“Some insurance companies may say that using non-genuine parts allows them to offer lower policy prices. However, any small savings could be lost thanks to the non-genuine parts devaluing the overall price of your car and increasing the bill for future repairs because they don’t provide adequate structural integrity in an accident,” Hastings said.
“When it’s a choice between lives and profit – there really is no contest.”
Three years ago, Axa Insurance was accused by the BBC of pressurising repairers to use cheaper substandard parts in order to drive down the cost of repairs. At the time, Axa responded to the accusation by saying that “the parts that we use meet exacting EU safety standards and do not compromise the safety or resale value of the vehicle following the repair.
“Axa’s priority is to ensure that our customers’ vehicles are repaired to a very high standard and that repairs are carried our quickly and efficiently to ensure that our customers are back on the road as soon as possible following a claim.”However, the NIBA report states there is a genuine concern that pattern parts simply do not have the same structural integrity as original parts.
The reports said “real differences existed between the genuine and non-genuine panels tested which could affect how well they fit and which could reduce their performance in an impact situation”.
The use of non-original parts was thrown into stark relief last year when such components were blamed for the spate of fires suffered by Opel Zafira people carriers.