Counterfeit spare parts are wreaking havoc in all African markets and Kenya has not been spared. This is a challenge that seems to have established strong roots and it’s not only endangering the lives of drivers and passengers, but also affecting the performance of the vehicles.
The list of spares that are usually counterfeited include light bulbs, spark plugs, brake pads, oil, filters, oil pumps, water pumps, steering linkages and airbags. Unsuspecting customers are misled by spare parts that are packaged in exactly the same way as the original brands. It’s mostly experienced mechanics and spare parts dealer that are able to tell them apart. Counterfeit parts are usually way much cheaper than the original brands, though unscrupulous dealers sometimes sell them at the same price to unsuspecting buyers.
While pricing seems to influence purchase decisions in Africa, one needs to understand the effects of using counterfeit parts in order to judge what you are getting into by negligently buying these parts without paying attention. Counterfeit parts are generally inferior in quality when compared to the original parts and consequently, they perform below par which leads to mechanical malfunctions and a shorter lifespan for your vehicle. Counterfeit clutches can lead to poor performance which can cause accidents that could have been avoided. Fake bulbs results in blurred vision and easily allows oxygen in which causes the filament to burn. Original bulbs have excellent atmospheric seals which prevent oxygen from entering them and have excellent insulation from thermal shock and could withstand vibrations and provide best lighting at night and prevent accidents. Drivers should not underestimate the function of wiper blades as quality decisions are based on clear unobstructed view of the road and good visibility is essential during rainy weather when vision may be obscured by water.
The use of counterfeit airbags in USA caused the Traffic Safety Agency to issue a Consumer Safety Advisory to alert vehicle owners and repair professionals to the dangers of counterfeit airbags. The airbags show consistent malfunctions that include the non-deployment of the airbag and the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern. Besides causing engine malfunctions that can lead to fatal accidents, counterfeit parts also increase the rate of depreciation of a motor vehicle. The condition of a motor vehicle is one key factor used in determining depreciation and market value.
In my view, the spare parts dealers’ leadership must craft a recommendation to government that seeks to employ mechanisms to protect them and the motorist at large. Such mechanisms may include effecting a duty regime that increases prices of counterfeit parts and the training of KRA officials to differentiate counterfeit parts from original ones. The original spare part dealers should also pull resources together to continuously disseminate information about the dangers of using counterfeit parts through all media platforms to increase awareness.
All public transport vehicles must be subjected to a system that prohibits them from using counterfeit parts and second hand tyres in order to minimise the risk of accidents on the roads. One way of enforcing this is by way of getting them serviced through a government Centre that only fits original parts and tyres in the interest of saving lives as a proactive disaster prevention strategy. The use of counterfeit parts is like taking drugs knowing very well that you will get drunk and eventually become addicted to their use. So why use them?
Stanley Makombe is a Motor Industry Consultant and Analyst
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