What’s in a Name?

| December 12, 2008

Just beginning to crop up in the replacement market are illegally counterfeited parts from overseas that clumsily attempt to mimic genuine parts – generally brake systems, so far – down to the brand names and packaging.

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, based in Washington, D.C., lists these warning signs of counterfeit goods:

  • Packaging with blurred or misspelled words.

  • No manufacturer’s contact information or part code number.
  • No trademark or copyright insignia or language.
  • Strangely low prices.

Most important, experts say, is to buy parts only from reputable dealers, whether OEMs or independents. If someone’s selling parts from the back of a trailer in a vacant lot, think twice before buying.

Even those who swear by branded parts don’t always buy them from OEMs. Some seek a better deal from independent parts dealers and distributors, such as NAPA Truck Service Centers or the 500-plus warehouses represented by HDA Parts Network.

“If the owner-operator wants to look around and shop around for parts, he’s got a lot of options,” says Pat Biermann, HDA president. “We can offer the same thing they get from the OEM, and usually at a much better price.”

HDA has its own nationwide warranty program, Biermann says. “If you buy from an HDA distributor, we stand behind it and will replace it. If you buy the part and are not happy, we will get you a new part. If the part was purchased in Miami, and a problem is encountered in Los Angeles, the distributor in Los Angeles gets the new part.”

Independent parts dealers have become an important part of the industry, says Vicky Black of Dana. Sticking with OEM parts and service while the truck is under warranty is “an easy choice – no choice, really,” but once the warranty expires, the owner-operator is free to decide where he’ll get the best price and best service, Black says.

The independent parts dealer has more incentive to do a good job because he doesn’t have truck sales to fall back on, Biermann says. “He’s got only one thing to sell, and that’s parts.”

The OEMs took the aftermarket for granted too long, while the independent parts distributors aggressively pursued it, says Mark Williams of the Technology and Maintenance Council. Still, he says, owner-operators shouldn’t be too hasty to jilt their OEM dealers for a sexy aftermarket deal.

“What you lose in that knockoff transaction is the service and support that the OEM would like to provide you as a customer,” Williams says. “Maybe you save $15, but you lose that right of access.”

Don Mahrt of Caterpillar points out that engine work done at an authorized repair shop is recorded in the national Caterpillar database. “So we’re able to follow the repair history. That means we can diagnose the problems more quickly and accurately,” he says.

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