Counterfeit parts and accessories is a big deal, and a big business. On a global scale, the United States Federal Trade Commission estimates that it’s a $12 billion business globally. So when GM’s Global Investigations team that assisted in seizing over 50,000 ACDelco counterfeit products in Saudi Arabia in February, those in favor of quality automotive parts recorded a small (yet quiet) victory.
By far and large, counterfeit parts are made (manufactured, packaged and represented) in such a way so as to mislead the public and make consumers think they’re buying an OEM part (such as that by ACDelco or GM itself), even though what they’re really buying is inferior quality in design, engineering, and quality control. In case that doesn’t sound like an illegal practice, it is. It’s against the law to misrepresent the parts as that of the OEM (due to copyright and trademark infringements), but that hasn’t stopped the fakes. Even worse is the fact that the practice hurts the reputation of OEMs, worsens the overall customer experience, and detracts from an OEM’s parts business… in other words, parts counterfeiting sucks for everyone (except for the counterfeiters), and should be stopped.
To address the issue of counterfeit parts and accessories, General Motors has established what it calls the Global Investigations team. Part of GM Global Security, Global Investigations collaborates with a worldwide network of brand protection and investigation partners that range from law enforcement to the legal authorities and customs agencies to identify and subsequently remove counterfeits from the market.
In the most recent instance in Saudi Arabia, The General’s unit worked with law enforcement agencies and Customs in Saudi Arabia, and takedowns consisted of an in-market raid against a distributor in Riyadh for counterfeit oil filters, air filters, and wipers; in addition, a Customs capture of counterfeit wiper blades took place in Dammam. The February raids follow those that took place in 2012, when GM’s Global Investigations team conducted a series of seizures and raids — supporting customs with product detentions in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
The result is clear: thousands of counterfeit automotive spare parts were withdrawn from the market and destroyed, protecting consumers across the Middle East (who love their GMs, by the way) from poor quality parts.
The figure that surprised us the most is that the Middle East has come to represent a full $1 billion of the estimated $12 billion counterfeit parts and accessories that the industry has become worldwide.
“Most raids in the Middle East target importers or in-market distributors. Some of these in-market distributors are found to be producing their own counterfeit packaging or labels, so in these cases, we move to try and seize their equipment,” said Scott Emmer, General Motors Global Security Manager, Global Brand Protection.
Perhaps most concerning is that most of the phony parts, according to Emmer, are produced in China (where else?). From there, they are exported globally. As such, it would seem that addressing the root of the problem — the manufacturing of the counterfeits — would significantly contribute to a decrease in availability of such parts in the global marketplace. For instance, a recent raid in China of roughly 35,000 counterfeit ACDelco wipers was intended for export to the UAE. In addition, raids in New York and New Jersey by the FBI in February resulted in the confiscation of counterfeit ACDelco gaskets and spark plug wire sets. GM has also raided small producers in other countries, such as Egypt: “In the past, we have also raided small manufacturers of glass products and windshields in Egypt.”
In addition to participating in the seizure of GM and ACDelco counterfeit parts and accessories, General Motors collaborates with other manufacturers to curb and eliminate counterfeiting.
“Cooperation includes basic sharing of best practices, seeking referrals from outside service providers and engaging in joint market surveys to gauge the level of counterfeits in specific markets in the Middle East,” said Emmer. “Last year the GM Global Investigations team also participated in joint raids in the United Arab Emirates with other brands.”
The GM Authority Take
While we love discussing new GM models and all kinds of other product-related GM rumors, it’s also healthy to not miss the forest for the trees: parts and accessories are a big part of The General’s business as a whole, and that business is being hindered by an assortment of sleazy counterfeiters that not only hurt the GM brand (by providing inferior-quality items using GM’s name), but also by making The General less profitable (by stealing potential parts business from the automaker). And that’s not to mention the ethical angle of the counterfeiter making money off GM’s back.
Ultimately, we applaud GM’s efforts in combating the counterfeit parts problem, and wish it (along with other OEMs) all the best in tackling the issue globally.