Posted: 9:58 a.m. Monday, July 7, 2014

Body shops sue insurance companies over inferior parts

Some Georgia body shop owners are on a collision course with the insurance companies that pay for the repairs.

Consumer investigator Jim Strickland found the controversy involves big dollars and big risk.

"I hope I don't have to fight, but I'll fight it tooth and nail," said car owner Kevin Rohrer. 

His insurance carrier wants to fix his Kia's damaged hood with a look-a-like imitation called an aftermarket repair part.  

When the body shop tried it out, the fit was slightly off, but the construction didn't look close.

Strickland was able to easily twist metal pieces of the hood's underside.  The corresponding parts on an original Kia hood were tighter.

"I want it the way that it was supposed to be, and fake parts from Taiwan is not the way it's supposed to be," said Rohrer.

The part is certified by a testing body set up by the insurance industry.  Strickland sent video to the Certified Automotive Parts Association, which now wants to test the hood's quality.

 


 

 


 

"I can't fix cars properly with Chinese knock-off parts," said Shane Osborne of Osborne Bodyworks in Lilburn. 

He and other collision center owners are speaking out. Shops in five states have filed federal lawsuits against insurance companies. Georgia shops may be next. 

The suits allege the insurance industry steers business away from shops that opt for more expensive parts built by the car companies themselves. Those parts are referred to as original equipment manufactured, or OEM.

Strickland confirmed Osborne's concern that most aftermarket parts, even those certified, are not crash-tested.

"I can't tell you that it's safe. That's the problem," said Osborne.

Honda driver Kimberly Wilcox of Dallas recently discovered an aftermarket wheel placed on her Accord as part of a collision repair was later recalled for a potentially fatal defect. She rode on it for a year.

"I can't believe that my insurance company would allow a wheel to be placed on my tire and that could cause this kind of harm or danger to myself or anyone that is riding with me," Wilcox told Strickland.

"Why wouldn't the insurance company just pay for a brand new Honda wheel to start with?" Strickland asked body shop owner Glenn Grey.

"The price differences:  Approximately $500 versus $189," he replied. 

The look-alike wheel Wilcox got is stamped "Made in China.”

Honda's own impact tests left another aftermarket wheel cracked. We don't know if the same manufacturer made that wheel.

The insurance industry says aftermarket parts save $1.5 billion per year, with each part costing 60 percent less than the OEM.

 


 

 


 

"These (parts) provide a cost-effective, quality alternative to get their cars repaired," said Bob Passmore of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. "Which benefits all policy holders by helping to keep the cost of auto insurance down.”

Passmore said insurers' programs to promote aftermarket-friendly body shops give customers a choice.

"(Insurance carriers) are not going to win customers or keep customers by forcing people to go to body shops against their will," Wilcox said. "I'd rather pay more for my premiums and know that I'm getting adequate parts, reliable parts from the actual manufacture of my automobile."

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