Spurious parts: A constant race

Constant vigilance, education, awareness and, above all, a commitment to the use of genuine parts can help the auto sector contain the menace of counterfeiting, says Brian de Souza.

By Brian de Souza calendar 03 May 2014 Views icon5458 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Spurious parts: A constant race

Constant vigilance, education, awareness and, above all, a commitment to the use of genuine parts can help the auto sector contain the menace of counterfeiting, says Brian de Souza.


At every Auto Expo, the organisers including SIAM and ACMA, showcase an elaborate presentation of various auto components that are subject to counterfeiting. The message is clear: if the menace of counterfeit products is not plugged, industry and government stand to lose revenues. Furthermore, vehicles which are equipped with spurious parts are potentially unsafe.

Every reason, one would imagine, for all industry stakeholders to come together and fight what continues to be one of the industry’s enduring challenges. Recently, a news report suggested that fake Chinese parts were the cause of the crash of the Super Hercules helicopter, one of India’s most advanced defence aircraft.

One reason for the enduring menace of counterfeit parts is that for those involved in the business, it is a very lucrative proposition. Verily, this is a kind of mafia that has spread its tentacles all across the country. Most affected are those who are gullible truck drivers for one, even passenger car owners, who are unaware of the impact of using fake parts.

With the aim to enhance the awareness aspect, SIAM now has a ‘SIAMfighting fake’ page that encourages people to shun the use of fake parts. The use of social media, it is hoped, will appeal to a younger, Internet-savvy crowd as well as create a critical mass of awareness.

Some companies have taken very strong measures. Tata Motors, for example, conducted raids on 33 parts manufacturers. Greaves Cotton, the Mumbai-based manufacturer of engines, has conducted eight raids in the past six months. The Tata raids were launched as part of a systematic campaign under the brand name of Tata Genuine Parts (TGP).

Several component makers, which are ACMA members, have conducted raids across the country. With the sole purpose of creating awareness in the market, enhancing vigilance in the ‘hotspots’ and eliminating the possibility of isolation of an individual company by retailers that deal with a fake product.

According to a paper presented at an international conference on counterfeiting, the issue of automotive counterfeiting dates back to the 1980s when it became a visible threat. The means of going about this include re-engineering products or duplicating labels, packaging and logos with accuracy and anonymity, the paper suggested.



tackling A menace, GUIDING MECHANICS

In an interaction with Autocar Professional, Rajesh Bagga, head – legal issues, Tata Motors, said: “The incidence of automotive counterfeiting is huge as the automotive sector turnover is huge. It accounts for an estimated 30-40 percent of the spares market.”

Indeed, according to a study by ACMA done in conjunction with Ernst & Young, it was estimated that 36 percent of the industry value of Rs 33,000 crore was accounted for by fakes.

Tackling the issue of counterfeiting requires a multi-pronged attack. Apart from the end-user, be it a car buyer or truck driver, it also involves those involved in the distribution trade.

These apart, perhaps, the most important player is the mechanic at the workshop.  According to Bagga, “We focus on the mechanic and try and make him more discerning and to tell him that if you use genuine parts, you retain the customer."

The challenges are many but, clearly, awareness of the rules that apply and proper enforcement of existing provisions of the law are most important.

The fact is that counterfeiting is a crime not only in India but across the world. Organisations and governments are trying to curb this crime from spreading, and trying to control it through reasonable levels. But it is one of the biggest money spinners across the world and conducted by people who are well organised, top sources said.

Counterfeiting affects a slew of auto parts from parts under the hood to electrical and electronic parts. The most commonly counterfeited parts include oil filters, air filters, distributor caps, fuel filters, bearings, water pumps and spark plugs.

Linked to the lack of awareness is the fact that implementing authorities do not understand the real implications of what spurious parts mean. The issue concerns copyright law and logo/design aspects that the police do not fully understand. Hence companies like
Tata Motors try and educate the police, with whom raids are conducted. However, given the pressures under which they operate, it is perhaps too much to expect them to be able to devote their time to this activity.



The use of spurious parts has a variety of implications. Firstly, on the safety aspect, it has been estimated that 20 percent of road accidents are directly or indirectly attributed to use of fake parts.

Secondly, the use of fake parts impacts fuel efficiency adding to the litres of petrol and diesel that are consumed. If there was one reason why the vehicle buyer shouldn’t buy fake, it would be this. Yet again, there is the awareness factor.
ACMA and Ernst & Young have estimated that 109 million litres of additional petrol and about eight million litres of diesel may be consumed solely by the use of fake parts. The use of fakes adds to vehicular pollution and is all the more if the vehicle is a commercial vehicle.

Thirdly, use of fake parts can translate into increased downtime (this is particularly important for commercial vehicles) and high maintenance costs.

The fight to contain counterfeiting requires to be fought on a variety of fronts. This year, SIAM has co-opted social media in order to spread the message of the benefits of using genuine parts. 

However, the fight against counterfeiting will not end anytime too soon. As Venkat Srinivas, head of special projects at Ashok Leyland, says, "Counterfeit parts unfortunately will always be with us. What we have to do is to focus on parts that are crucial from a performance and safety standpoint and ensure genuine parts are used for those purposes.”


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