A leading New Zealand crash repairer says some insurance companies are more concerned with profits than road safety and that body-repair businesses and customers have little or no say in the matter.? Owen Evans, the director of Evans European in Auckland, said many insurers have no idea how a car is built and are treating crash repairs like “straight accountancy – bean-counter stuff.” Evans, a longtime motorsport figure and the holder of the New Zealand land speed record, is backing Australian Mercedes-Benz executive David McCarthy’s claim that insurers who use non-genuine parts on crash-damaged vehicles “have blood on their hands.” Evans said McCarthy’s comments were “music to our ears, because he’s bringing an awareness to a problem that’s definitely in our industry and an awareness that this sort of practice can cause injury and death. “You’ve got insurance companies out there who put a lot of pressure on repairers,” said Evans. “The repairers are put in a situation when they have no choice (but to use non-genuine parts) … unfortunately, they have to fight for survival. What happens is they take the shorter route and hope it’s all good. “Part of repairing any car these days is not just getting it looking right – it’s essential that the repairer hasn’t compromised what the manufacturer has designed the car to do,” said Evans. Melbourne-based McCarthy, the senior public relations manager for Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific, says the overwhelming majority of insurers are fitting counterfeit parts to cars. “They are compromising the integrity of the (car’s) safety. All they are interested in is repairing a car to look good,” he said.?? “They are not repairing the car for the next accident and, quite frankly, they have blood on their hands. ?? “If these repairers say the non-genuine parts they are using are safe, I have two words for them: Prove it. You know what? They can’t – they don’t even want to try,” McCarthy said. He admitted he would be accused of protecting Mercedes-Benz interests. “Okay, I acknowledge that. But protecting our customers is far more important to us than parts,” he said. “Mercedes-Benz spends $15 million a day on research and development. Much of that is spent on safety. We share our safety technology with other manufacturers free of charge because we will not engage in a race to the bottom on safety. “We design a vehicle to be able in primary and secondary safety to protect the occupant and pedestrians, but the repair practices that are taking place and the parts that are being used are putting people’s lives at risk. I have no doubt about that.”?? Carmakers these days can use up to eight different metals in vehicles, from high-strength steels to aluminium
and magnesium alloys. Each of these materials require specialist repair techniques, otherwise the car’s structural integrity can be compromised.
and magnesium alloys. Each of these materials require specialist repair techniques, otherwise the car’s structural integrity can be compromised.Examples of counterfeit components were not just limited to bonnets, body panels and parts, but copycat and reconditioned components such as headlights and tail-lights. A non-genuine bonnet made of steel, for instance, can weigh more than twice that of the carmaker’s original. “Our lightweight bonnets have been designed to crumble in an accident,” said McCarthy. “The non-genuine steel bonnets won’t crumble. Our bonnet hinges have not been designed to carry the weight of steel – in an accident the bonnet will shear off. “When you fit non-genuine parts in an incorrect manner to a car, our view is that vehicle is no longer safe, therefore it is no longer roadworthy and there is no control on this.? “Insurance companies are breaking faith with their policyholders. They need to face up to their public responsibilities and wash the blood from their hands.” • Owen Evans talks to Alastair Sloane on Face TV (Sky 83) tonight at 8pm.