Putting Safety First: Fake Car Parts In The Spotlight
This is a car engine block. It’s big and it’s heavy (about half the weight of a fully grown horse). The makers of counterfeit car parts don’t make fake engine blocks because it’d be too much trouble to manufacture, transport, sell and fit these while evading notice.
“Mercedes V6 DTM Rennmotor 1996” by Stahlkocher used under CC by SA 3.0 (the author approves usage rights but does not endorse this article)
This is a car brake. It’s small and it’s portable. The makers of counterfeit car parts do make car brakes because they’re much easier to manufacture and their placement into genuine supply chains is much less detectable.
“Disk brake dsc03682” by David Monniaux used under CC by SA 3.0 (the author approves usage rights but does not endorse this article)
If the first one goes wrong then your car won’t go: if the second one goes wrong then your car won’t stop.
If ever proof were needed that counterfeiters are a serious menace who recklessly endanger the lives of consumers then the case of fake car components is it.
What do we know about the counterfeit production of smaller but integral car parts such as brakes? Well, rather a lot. What has become clear in recent years is that counterfeiters make a lot of them, they sell them online and in physical market places across the world, and that, worryingly, it is a trend on the increase.
A recent EUIPO report found that in the EU alone, just for counterfeit tyres and batteries, the genuine automotive sector loses approximately 2.4 billion Euros annually. In addition to the clear danger this huge number represents to motorists and pedestrians, 340 million Euros in taxes are lost and 30,000 people are made unemployed by the black market trade.
A Global Snapshot – Fake Car Parts In The Middle East
The EU numbers may look bad, but they are not, unfortunately, the worst of it. As early as 2007, one OECD report commented that the Middle East was then the “principal market for counterfeit automotive parts”. Despite targeted interventions from enforcement groups across the region in recent years, in the UAE in particular the problem has only worsened. Incredibly, the chairman of one Dubai auto-industry group, Omar Shteiwi, expressed his belief that “one in every three cars in the UAE is fitted with a counterfeit item.”
In terms of numbers, in 2015/16, raids in the UAE resulted in the confiscation of over 7 million Euros worth of fake stock. In 2017 it was reported that one seizure alone was valued at more than 3.5 million Euros and then, in the first two months of 2018, raids in Dubai returned a figure of over 170,000 fake car parts, worth in excess of 280,000 Euros.
Why the UAE has become such a pinch point for the trade in fake car components is unclear, but it may have something to do with the structure of the trade itself, combined with the country’s situation. Manufacturers of fake car parts choose the low-hanging fruit of brakes, batteries, tyres, oil filters and other small but necessary items because they are the elements which wear out most frequently and thus need replacing more often. In the harsh desert environment of the Middle East the presence of extreme temperatures and sand may have exacerbated the need to replace parts frequently, generating a price sensitive buying market and allowing counterfeiters to step in and supply parts which can cause potentially lethal results.
As a result, the UAE has not only had its own fleet of vehicles compromised by fakes but it has become the main hub for importation (from China) and onward online sale too. Large and small shipments of products purchased by European, Australian and American importers, both large and small, have all been reported as originating from the region. If these fake car parts appear in the Middle East (which they do) then chances are they are also headed for the cars of consumers all over the world.
What Can Be Done?
For brands who want to protect their consumers and their own reputations from this problem, there are steps which can be taken. First, it’s important to know what the scale and the nature of the counterfeiting problem really is. Working with Pointer to assess the potential damage currently facing you is important. This will allow you to see the geographical reality and to understand how your current and future Intellectual Property rights may help you. Do you have enough protection in the markets that really count?
Secondly, the reality is that spotting fake car parts online can be incredibly difficult. This is true even for experienced investigators, let alone consumers who are often at the mercy of unscrupulous or unaware sellers and garages. In order to fight against the pervasive influence of the pirates, wherever they are in the world, it’s crucial to work closely with a brand protection partner that have advanced software, strong relationships with online platforms, and, crucially, a depth of experience in spotting and removing fakes from the online marketplace.
Reach out to Pointer for an effective brand protection strategy.