x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fake parts bedevil UAE car industry

Consumers in the Emirates should beware of fake car parts, which put motorists at risk.

Tyres on display at an autoparts shop in Beijing, China. The sale of counterfeit parts is a major problem for the car industry in the UAE.
Tyres on display at an autoparts shop in Beijing, China. The sale of counterfeit parts is a major problem for the car industry in the UAE.

The sale of counterfeit parts continues to plague the car industry as well as putting the lives of drivers at risk, manufacturing executives say.

"If you have defective parts in a car, it is life and death," said Tim Green, a marketing director at NSK Europe, one of the world's largest manufacturers of bearings and steering systems for cars. "You have to guarantee the safety and if you don't guarantee the safety then it is people's lives."

Consumers are advised to request information on any part fitted in their cars during a service and to ask for the packaging to prove it is genuine.

Because many parts that are seized in the UAE are destined to be sent abroad, the size and penetration of the counterfeit market is difficult to measure.

Although Dubai Customs officials last year seized 75 per cent more shipments of counterfeit goods, including car parts, compared with 2009, Mazen Ghanem, the marketing director at Bosch Middle East, said these seizures were just the "tip of the iceberg" and that the number of fake parts in cars in the Emirates was a "significant" proportion of the spare parts market.

The legal market for spare parts was worth Dh32 billion (US$8.71bn) last year, and grew 11 per cent to Dh8.4bn in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, according to data released yesterday by Dubai Customs.

"We only see a small amount of the total counterfeiting," said Mr Ghanem. "Dubai Customs is very supportive and the situation is improving, but they cannot check each and every container that comes in to Jebel Ali, this is the problem."

Mr Ghanem said Bosch had recently intercepted car brake pads that were partly made of wood and could spontaneously combust as the brakes were applied. The pads were destined for Europe.

"Some parts even use wood inside the brake pad so that when it is overheated this will create flames, this is how dangerous counterfeiting is," he said.

As a strategic hub for goods to be imported and re-exported, Dubai is a crucial battleground in the fight against counterfeit car parts as well as other goods. According to the latest figures from the European Commission, the UAE is the second-most common source of counterfeit goods seized in Europe, after China. About 14.6 per cent of all fakes detained in the EU in 2009 came through the UAE, up from 12.3 per cent in 2008, according to the commission. "There's a lot of money to be made counterfeiting and it is encouraged in certain countries, because there is spare capacity," said Mr Green.

"There are not enough measures in place to prevent it from happening." In response to growing anxieties over counterfeit car parts worldwide, Bosch has launched a consumer protection website, where customers can enter the 15-digit serial number on the manufacturer's parts to check the authenticity.

"We are trying our best and trying to protect customers," said Mr Ghanem. "You can never stop these guys."

rjones@thenational.ae