Driving up to the Al-Futtaim parts distribution centre for Toyota, there is a huge sign on the side of the building that reads No to Counterfeit. Kevin Jones, the senior general manager for after sales, explains why fighting the sale of fake parts is so important.
What might typically be a counterfeit car part?
For instance a fake oil filter might look absolutely perfect on the outside with the correct stamps and everything. But look inside and there's nothing in it, it's empty. A cam belt might also look perfect and the counterfeiters even use the same plastic as Toyota to cover it, but you go inside it and it hasn't got the core, the reinforcement inside. You often can't tell the difference between two brake pads next to each other. The time you know that one is fake is when you press the brake and the glue melts.
Why are dealers selling these parts?
If they had a conscience they wouldn't do it. A lot of the genuine brakes have an asbestos substitute, but the fakes have wood and can just burst into flames. A car could be driving round and the driver presses the brake and the pad can explode into flames. It's so dangerous, but the margins are huge for dealers so that's why they do it.
Can authorised dealers compete on price?
It's difficult for our dealers because a lot of the unscrupulous dealers get our genuine parts and mix them with fake parts so they can sell at a low average cost. Our dealers cannot compete because the fake part costs next to nothing. Some customers get the good ones and some get the bad. It is like a lottery.
What is being done to tackle the problem?
What the Government is trying to do now is implement a scheme where if you don't have approval from the brand custodian, then you cannot display it on your shop frontage. So if the customer is walking in to somewhere with Toyota on the shop frontage, then they know they are safe and will only get genuine parts.
Are consumers waking up to the problem?
Being the market leader, and for the safety of customers, we try to educate them on fake parts. We run lots of campaigns every year to make customers aware. There is now more awareness among customers, but I don't think there has been a change in the amount of [fake] parts coming in to the country. The branding scheme will see there is a reduction in fake parts because people will only want to buy from branded shops.
Does the Government help in the fight?
The Government has been supporting us a lot in fake parts of late. It's taking a lot of interest. We also do a lot of work with Dubai Customs. They send parts to our distribution centre for analysis and will stop a container until we say whether the part is genuine or not.
* Rory Jones