It happens every summer. As temperatures on the roads reach scorching levels, more and more traffic accidents are caused by tyre punctures or blowouts. This is not just bad luck. Many of the cars involved in accidents have been using counterfeit tyres, if not other fake spare parts as well.
It's not just a matter of a cheaper deal at the mechanic; in some cases knock-off parts are based on substandard engineering that can cause safety problems. And the situation appears to be getting worse.
As The National reports today, the car dealership Al Futtaim Motors estimates that one out of four Toyota car components in the UAE is counterfeit. With the Japanese carmaker providing 40 per cent of new cars on UAE roads, the potential risk to drivers is huge.
"The danger is to the consumer, because they are buying an unsafe part when they think they are buying a genuine part," said Kevin Jones, a senior general manager at Al Futtaim.
It is not just one company that is sounding an alarm. According to a report by Dubai Customs released earlier this month, the legal market for spare parts was worth Dh32 billion last year.
Also last year, Dubai Customs officials seized 75 per cent more shipments of counterfeit goods, including car parts, compared to 2009, and there is reason to believe that other emirates are also being flooded with fake goods. The customers, in most cases, will have no idea about what they are buying.
Part of the answer is increased enforcement seizing counterfeit goods. But it is worrying that these seizures could be just the tip of the iceberg, said Mazen Ghanem, the marketing director at Bosch Middle East. The number of fake parts being traded in the country could be a significant proportion of the overall spare parts market.
Established brands like Toyota and Bosch obviously have an interest in protecting their trademarks. But it is also true that their manufacturing processes and machined components have passed stringent tests for quality and safety. Counterfeit car parts are not only stealing the brand, they are falsely laying claim to those safety standards.
Vigilance on the roads is always required. Increasingly, so is knowing what mechanics are putting inside your car.