Testing of counterfeit brake pads has underlined a major danger to Australian road users while the trade in unsafe, phony vehicle parts worldwide continues to escalate.
Counterfeit pads, seized and tested by Mercedes-Benz in Germany have demonstrated grave safety implications for road users.
In emergency stops from 100km/h, counterfeit-equipped test vehicles ploughed through safety cones representing pedestrians and other vehicles, at high speed.
In addition to the counterfeit pads markedly increasing braking distances, they proved dangerously unreliable at speed and in high-use situations.
In conditions simulating high-speed braking and long hill descents, braking effect decreased to levels that could leave motorists unable to slow or stop. The counterfeit’s brake lining also wore through rapidly in standard tests.
These tests are not the first time counterfeit brake pads have been proven a major road hazard. In mid-2017 BMW testing saw counterfeit brake pads smoke and disintegrate during the first quarter of standard wear tests.
In road testing, the fakes added 25 metres to emergency dry braking distances.
Over 600,000 illegal counterfeit car parts were seized in various ports over 2016 and 2017, with investigators certain that many shipments were bound for Australia.
Brake pads with artfully forged branding contrived to fit 15 different automotive marques were a common sight among the seized counterfeits.
As recently as January 2018, 10,500 fake automotive parts were seized in Abu Dhabi. Locally, counterfeit brake pads containing asbestos were located and seized by Toyota in 2015.
Director of Nationwide Research Group Craig Douglas has 25 years’ experience working with Australian automotive brands to investigate counterfeit parts.
According to Mr Douglas, Australian cars are a prime target for counterfeit criminals.
“We know that these inferior parts are being fitted to vehicles locally and without the knowledge or consent of the vehicle owners,” he said.
“We are increasingly seeing dangerous fakes imported into Australia from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other parts of the UAE. We have traced counterfeit dealers in these regions approaching Australian automotive retailers offering to sell them parts they describe as genuine at less than local prices.
“The seized parts represent a minute fraction of the AUD$20 billion global counterfeit syndicates.
“Mechanical workshops are clear targets for these kinds of parts, and we know that these approaches are ongoing. My estimation is that for every eight mechanics that say no to counterfeits, there are two that say yes, mostly because the fakes are so convincingly packaged and disguised.
“This problem is on the rise and Australian consumers need to be vigilant,” Mr Douglas said.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Chief Executive Tony Weber renewed his call for repairers and consumers alike to be more demanding in regards to product quality and authenticity.
“Criminals are profiting from exposing families to high risk. The manufacture and distribution of low-performance, illegally branded brake pads is outrageous. The end user might never find out until it’s too late. A few dollars saved might cost you your life,” Mr Weber said.
“The Chamber and the automotive industry again implore Australians to buy genuine parts from their local dealer because they can be assured they are getting the real deal.
“And always ask the simple question of your repairer: ‘Will you be using genuine parts to repair my car?’”
Genuine is Best offers a confidential reporting service for drivers seeking to report a suspected counterfeit at www.genuineisbest.com.au/reportacounterfeit