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Research backs non-OE parts use

Thatcham has turned up the heat on the issue of non-original parts use in accident repairs by hinting that manufacturers who attempt to stifle competition through predatory pricing could be hit by higher group ratings on parts.

The insurer-backed research organisation has sent a draft report assessing the use of non-OE parts to the General Insurance Council, with a view to launching the programme by the end of the year.

The crash parts accreditation scheme will recommend to insurers the lower cost items that are of OE quality in a bid to cut costs in the £1.4bn a year replacement parts market. Initially, Thatcham will accredit bonnets, front wings and front/rear bumpers for vehicles aged between three and 10 years old, but it expects to add more parts if the programme is a success.

Thatcham believes the scheme will improve the viability of repairing vehicles and reduce the number of write-offs - an important consideration in light of the forthcoming End of Life Vehicles directive (ELV).

But carmakers, which make huge profits from selling parts to bodyshops, will lose business to independent parts suppliers and are likely to launch an offensive against the programme. They insist that non-original parts do not meet the quality standards of OE in terms of safety and fitment.

Thatcham is expected to exert influence through the group ratings process to prevent predatory pricing and also stop manufacturers from loading prices of other parts to counter competition from accredited non-OE suppliers.

It points out that the scheme offers carmakers several benefits, including reduced environmental pressures and costs in disposing of damaged cars under ELV, and does not rule out accrediting reconditioned and recycled parts which would further cut ELV overheads.

Thatcham turnover increased last year to £7.09m, from £6.04m in 2000, which enabled it to transfer £76,000 to its accumulated funds.

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