In recent years, vehicle manufacturers and their franchised dealers have been pursuing an increasingly aggressive strategy aimed at growing the sales of their original equipment replacement parts and repair services. The result has been a smear campaign by the vehicle manufacturers, which aims to discredit the quality of auto care market parts by suggesting that the use of such parts could result in the invalidation of a vehicle’s warranty. For instance, in a 2011 release, Mazda alleged “automotive aftermarket parts are generally made to a lower standard in order to cut costs and lack the testing required to determine their effectiveness in vehicle performance and safety… Mazda also recommends that car owners use original equipment replacement parts in repairs in order to ensure the validity of their warranty.”
Enacted in 1975, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prohibits product manufacturers from conditioning consumer warranties on the use of any original equipment part or service. Furthermore, a manufacturer can only deny warranty coverage if it can demonstrate that a non-original equipment part or related service caused a defect to occur in the original product. In the case of motor vehicles, new car manufacturers have ignored these conditions outlined in Magnuson-Moss and have misled consumers to believe that they must have dealer service shops install only original equipment replacement parts or fear having their new car warranty voided.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for enforcing the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. However, in the case of motor vehicles, the FTC has taken little action to ensure consumers receive accurate information regarding their rights under their new car warranties.
With the help of auto care companies and trade groups, the Auto Care Association has filed complaints with the FTC, taking issue with the unsubstantiated claims made by the vehicle manufacturers regarding the quality of auto care parts and the conditioning of warranties on the use of certain parts. The Auto Care Association has reached out the FTC indirectly through our allies in Congress who have been encouraged to put pressure on the FTC to take action against vehicle manufacturers. In response to an FTC Request for Comment on its warranty-related interpretations, the Auto Care Association called on the commission to provide for better disclosure of a consumer’s rights under a new car warranty and require substantiation to be provided with any claims made by the vehicle manufacturers that non-original equipment parts are substandard.
Key points: There are a number of important points to consider when talking about the quality of auto care industry parts. Studies have confirmed that auto care industry parts are of a similar or even greater quality than the original equipment replacement parts they replace. In fact, most auto care industry parts are identical to original equipment parts because parts manufacturers create and sell the same parts to both the auto care market and new vehicle manufacturers. Auto care market companies have the benefit of observing a part’s performance and can then correct problems that are discovered only after the part has been in use for some time. Thus, the FTC must conduct greater oversight and enforcement of vehicle manufacturers who do not comply with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and who seek to discredit auto care market products; aggressively enforce requirements that vehicle manufacturers must substantiate all claims that use of non-original equipment parts could jeopardize a vehicle warranty; and require better consumer disclosure by car companies regarding their rights under the warranty. This might entail compelling the car companies to:
- Include in their warranty booklets a prominently placed statement that, as a motor vehicle manufacturer, they are prohibited from conditioning the warranty on the use of any non-original equipment part or service; or,
- Inform consumers of their rights with a written statement of reasons when a warranty is denied due to the use of a non-original equipment service or part.
Release: Auto Care Association Salutes Connecticut for Passage of Magnuson-Moss Legislation - July 2015
Connecticut Senate Bill 99 text
FTC final action on Magnuson-Moss review - May 2015
Release: Senator Urges FTC to Take Action Against Carmakers’ Misleading Warranty Tactics - Oct. 2014
Letter to the Editor regarding Kia - May 2014
Letter to FTC regarding Consumer Reports / Kia - May 2014
Consumer Reports article on Kia - May 2014
Letter to FTC regarding Kia alert - May 2012
USAP comments on Magnuson-Moss review - Oct. 2011
Letter to FTC regarding Mazda release - Oct. 2011
Mazda press release - Aug. 2011