Car Makers Band Together to Stop Glass counterfeiters
By Tara Taffera
“People are much safer in their vehicles because of these raids.”
“These raids,” as Ken Feldman describes them, are massive efforts on behalf of Ford’s Brand Protection Team. They, and other major vehicle manufacturers or OEs, use these raids to stop the distribution of counterfeit glass manufactured in China. Feldman is Global Brand Protection Manager for Ford. One of his unit’s quests includes stopping counterfeit auto glass from entering the U.S. market—something his unit has been tackling for almost 20 years. So far, the collective efforts of the OEs have stopped over 600,000 counterfeit pieces from entering the China aftermarket, he says. In addition, $2.8 million in fines have been levied against these Chinese producers, and 65 people have been placed in jail.
Why is it so important to stop the production of this glass? As you can imagine, the biggest reason is protecting occupants of a vehicle.
Data from the insurance industry shows that about 10% of passengers in a road accident will get hurt be-cause of the car glass and meanwhile the death rate may increase by 25% (for more on this see sidebar, at right).Feldman refers to China as the “counterfeit capital of the world,” which is why a lot of OEs, including his company, work with enforcement agencies to stop the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit glass there.
In 2011, an independent investigative agency Nuodun found OE automotive glass was easy “to rip off,” says Feldman. Nuodon then structured a fee-based plan for the major OEs with significant presence in China to participate.
“Since 2011, Nuodun has been going up and down the supply chain hitting large numbers of retailers, distributors and manufacturers—the entire supply chain,” Feldman says. “They seized 76,469 pieces of counterfeit glass for various OE brands in one raid alone, which included windshields, door glass and back glass.”
“The counterfeit glass versions will generally be be-low the normal selling price,” he says. “And packaging is another indicator as well. OE glass will be distributed with OE packaging and service part labels.”
Counterfeiters have no incentive to use quality raw materials or robust manufacturing processes, the products are often sub-standard and do not meet the OE specifications, Ford asserts.
“Markings, particular trademarks of the OE and/or supplier are often poor also” he adds.
The company shows several examples on its Brand Protection website so consumers will at least be aware and look at the glass markings when a part is replaced (http://www.fordbrandprotection.com/CP_Collision.aspx).
“The glass itself will have quality issues including distortion, or ‘waviness,’ as well as potential fit issues which may cause water leaks under the mouldings,” says Feldman.
He adds that Nuodon offers very detailed, well-prepared reports, and that seven to eight OE brands are usually participating in each raid.
“We are staying vigilant,” he adds, “but it is getting harder to find and that is thanks to everyone’s efforts; China law enforcement, the OE brands, and Nuodun. But once you get a few raids, it leads you down the path to other counterfeiters.”
Of course, there are many reputable companies that manufacture glass in China, such as Fuyao and Xinyi Glass North America, and both are alarmed as well at the counterfeiting taking place.
“We would not consider doing anything like that as we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” says Henri Tam, president of Xinyi Glass North America. “It is unfortunate that these other companies are originating from China, and we do not want to see people drawing any relation between those companies and XYG.”
Representatives of Fuyao North America provided a statement to AGRR magazine as well.
“Fuyao has a well-recognized and respected brand that is known by auto businesses worldwide for delivering industry-leading auto glass products,” read the statement. “We are passionate about protecting our brand and reputation and we believe in fair market competition by product quality and technology. We adhere to rigid production standards and solid control of custody within our global supply chain, which we believe are core elements to prevent counterfeiting.”
Counterfeit glass does appear in other countries as well, though Feldman says China is the major producer of counterfeit products in general, not just glass.
“The success Nuodun has achieved over the last few years is indicative of how pervasive the counterfeit problem really is,” he adds. “We have conducted glass enforcement actions in other markets too–US, India, Middle East, Ecuador and Argentina to name a few.”
Stopping Counterfeiters Cold
AGRR’s editorial director Tara Taffera talked with Mr. Gao, the legal representative of Nuodun, about their quest to stop Chinese glass counterfeiters. Learn how it all started and the status of raids which continue through today.
AGRR: Why did Nuodon start targeting counterfeit glass in 2011?
Nuodon: We have been working in the China car part aftermarket for over 10 years and found that compared with some car parts, glass is more easily to be copied yet the damage is severe. Since the authority is not capable to identify counterfeit glass, we act as a bridge between brand owners and the authority to report counterfeit leads to different agencies to enforce.
AGRR: did you know you would be so successful with the amount of glass you found?
Nuodon: We didn’t know it at first. After the raid, we will organize the information on target’s up and downstream form sellers, then dig out related fake glass wholesalers and manufacturers gradually.
AGRR: What are all the brands participating in this effort? And are all of the brands that signed on in the beginning still participants?
Nuodon: Most major vehicle brands and glass brands in the China market have joined this program. OE brand owners and glass suppliers have provided us lots of valuable information on the fake glass market, as well as the financial support to take actions. As the glass is a crucial safety related part, all the participants are still with us to fight this counterfeit issue.
AGRR: How is the glass destroyed after a raid?
Nuodon: After the actions, a criminal or administrative penalty is imposed on the illegal person in charge, according to the seriousness of the illegal act. Then law-enforcement agencies confiscate and destroy the fake automotive glass. Sometimes the brand owners and media are invited as well.
AGRR: do you have any idea how much of this counterfeit glass may have made its way into the U.S.?
Nuodon: So far did didn’t find evidence to indicate that the counterfeit glass has made its way into the U.S. market yet. We think it might be because of the size and character of the glass – counterfeit glass cannot sustain long-distance shipment and it is more cost-saving to print fake markings locally.
TARA TAFFERA is the editorial director for Auto Glass Repair and Replacement magazine.
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