Imitation Parts Intro

Insurance companies often include the use of imitation sheet metal replacement parts on their estimates. Although they never actually call these inferior parts “imitations”, the fact of the matter is that these parts are not made to the same exacting standards as those from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (O.E.M.). Rather than calling these parts what they truly are, insurers prefer friendlier terms such as “Quality Replacement Part” (QRP) or “Like, Kind and Quality” (LKQ). These parts, usually from offshore companies based in countries such as Taiwan, lack the corrosion protection afforded by the O.E.M. parts. Aftermarket rubber bumpers, while not requiring the corrosion resistance of sheet metal, often lack the paint adhesion qualities of their Original Equipment Manufacturer counterparts.

The process used to make these aftermarket (A/M) parts is also inferior. The offshore manufacturer does not have access to the original tooling equipment so they use a “reverse manufacturing process”. They take the part and make a mold, from that mold, they make the “die” or “stamp” for the imitation part. These additional steps leave room for additional tolerance (slop). It is not uncommon to have a variance of more than 10 millimeters on an imitation part when compared to a quality O.E.M. piece.

Time after time these parts have been shown to be inferior in terms of fit (typically evidenced by slotted holes or reworked body lines) and overall finish (low grade primers), and corrosion resistance (demonstrated by salt spray testing). Independent studies (such as the one published in Consumers Reports in February of 1999) have consistantly shown the inequities of these poor quality parts.

Aside from initial quality issues such as fit, corrosion resistance, and finish, these parts have been demonstrated to lead to increased damage in cases of subsequent collisions. That is, their use can actually lead to increased damage (and increased repair costs) if the vehicle is involved in another accident.

While everyone can certainly understand the need for insurance companies to control premium costs, the savings realized by using these inferior parts is very minimal – and at the expense of the vehicle owner. Do not be misled by the insurer’s claims of a “Lifetime Warranty” on this type of part. They are gambling that you will not have the automobile long enough to see the poor longevity of this “imitation tin”.

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