Volume 12, Issue 6 - November/December 2010

Independent’s Day
an iga viewpoint

The Aftermarket Issue
by Alan Epley

Recently, Ford Motor Company raised the issue of replacing automobile structural crash parts with original equipment manufactured (OEM) parts versus aftermarket parts and consumer safety. Ford’s testing results disclosed that there are significant differences in the raw materials that compose the OEM and aftermarket parts. The difference was so extreme that Ford engineer Roger Chen rated the material comparison as being “like tofu versus a rock.” The results also indicated that, in addition to raw material differences, the testing showed that manufacturing processes used in making aftermarket parts were inferior when compared to those used in making OEM parts.

Over the course of the last several months, the Independent Glass Association (IGA) has been voicing concerns over the quality of windshields in the same regard. Members have reported incidents whereby the rearview mirror has been detaching from the windshield and taking shards of glass with it. Other comments received by the association from its members have included clarity issues and the fact that windshields are not being cut to the exact opening of the vehicle.

Questions must be raised. Do aftermarket windshields afford the same amount of protection to vehicle occupants in the event of a rollover accident or in the deployment of the passenger side airbag? Is the fact that a shop installs a windshield in accordance with the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) enough to offset any safety factors that may be compromised due to the installation of inferior glass? While we debate these issues, we must consider that officials at Ford Motor Co. raised concerns about comparison of the structural parts of an automobile. Isn’t the windshield a structural part of a vehicle?

“The association is planning to establish a tracking system to facilitate the tracking of inferior glass in the marketplace.”

Structural Stability
Since the windshield is a structural part of an automobile and an integral part of a vehicle’s safety system, the Independent Glass Association (IGA) is taking the initiative to include windshields in the discussion and is making every effort to have them included in the testing process. The association is planning to establish a tracking system to facilitate the tracking of inferior glass in the marketplace. Once established, shops will have the ability to report defective glass to the IGA, which will, in turn, monitor glass for defect patterns. In addition, the IGA is discussing the inclusion of automobile replacement glass into the testing procedures by the big three automobile manufacturers. Thus far, I am happy to report that those discussions are progressing and there is receptivity from manufacturers to do so.

On a related matter, Consumer Reports magazine recently reported that consumers must insist on OEM replacement parts in the event that their vehicle has been damaged in a crash. The article points out that insurance companies pressure automotive repair shops to use aftermarket replacement parts in an effort to contain the cost of a claim, but may compromise consumer safety in the process. And naturally, the aftermarket parts manufacturers argue that the cited Ford testing was flawed.

The Time is Now
The IGA believes that the time to make the determination as to the relevance of this debate is now. Are aftermarket parts every bit as good as OEM parts? Every insurance company, governmental authority, parts manufacturer and repair shop has the responsibility to protect the consumer by making certain that every motor vehicle, whether damaged in an accident or in need of a replacement windshield, is restored to its pre-loss condition.

The IGA believes that the debate initiated by the testing of OEM and aftermarket parts conducted by Ford Motor Co. must be expanded to include automobile glass and undertaken by more manufacturers, including General Motors and Chrysler. And the burden to contradict those results with factual proof remains the responsibility of the aftermarket parts and glass manufacturers. A windshield that will not support the roof in the event of a rollover or the airbag in the event that it is deployed is unacceptable at any cost.

Alan Epley is president of the Independent Glass Association (IGA). He also serves as president of Southern Glass and Plastic in Columbia, S.C. Mr. Epley’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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