Counterfeit. White box. Gray market. Genuine. Aftermarket. Will fit. Private label. Knock-off. All those terms are used — some interchangeably — to describe truck parts. That explains why there is confusion in the market and uncertainty about whether you are getting the part you actually want.
But there is a real distinction between the terms that is important to keep in mind. Counterfeiters set out to deceive the buyer. They blatantly claim the product they are offering is a Bendix, Meritor, Dana, Eaton, etc. product and even go so far as to copy the packaging in an attempt to persuade you. The reality is the manufacturer of the original product is not involved in the making of the counterfeit product, which often fails to meet quality and safety standards.
In the past, a tip-off that a product was counterfeit was its country of origin. But with globalization, that is no longer the case. As John Devany, sales manager at Betts Truck Parts & Service, says, “We are very careful to educate our team that not all imports are counterfeit, and not all counterfeit parts are imported.”
Some manufacturers say genuine parts — those manufactured for installation on a new truck — are the best alternative at replacement time. They believe that with non-genuine aftermarket replacements or will-fit parts, there is no guarantee of quality. Manufacturers of aftermarket replacement parts, however, counter that their parts not only meet OEM requirements, but in some cases exceed them.
Add to this the proliferation of all-makes parts programs by truck manufacturers and other private-label parts programs, and it’s almost impossible to know whose part is in the box.
To cope, fleets need to take more control of their parts purchasing. It starts with making sure you are buying parts from trusted suppliers, distributors and dealers. They are the first line of defense in ensuring you get the part you want from the manufacturer you want. You also need to be clear about asking for the part you want. If you want a genuine part, ask for it by brand name. If you are okay with an equivalent part, say so. That decision will often depend on where the truck is in its life cycle.
When changing suppliers or adding a new supplier, do your homework. See if they are involved in the industry via membership in trade associations and trucking industry organizations. Ask the manufacturers of the lines the new supplier carries whether they are authorized to sell their parts.
When you get a part, take a minute to look it over to make sure it has the proper markings and stampings. Counterfeiters are getting smarter about copying markings but sometimes don’t get them quite right. Other times they get them very wrong. Phillip Rotman, chief intellectual property counsel for Dana Corp., told of an instance where the Spicer brand name was spelled Spiger. Seems obvious, but if you didn’t look at the part, you wouldn’t know.
While there are a host of words describing the parts fleets need to maintain and repair their trucks, don’t let that stop you from getting exactly what you want. And don’t let anyone tell you that they know better than you exactly what it is you want and need for your truck. There is no confusion about that.