Better cars, better parts
One of the key reasons repairs are expensive is that most of today's cars are heavily contented, says General Motors spokesman John M. McDonald, citing power-lift tailgates and heated seats and steering wheels.
"Even on lower-end cars, people looking for fuel economy also want convenience features," he says.
Multi-stage airbags and special hood latches that add to the crash-worthiness of vehicles affect prices, he says.
And in designing for global cars — an industry goal — features required in other countries may be included on vehicles built for the U.S. market. That adds to costs, McDonald says.
Copies of factory parts up the ante because they often are considerably less expensive. And good.
Ford Motor Co. recently reported that its study of aftermarket copy structural collision parts showed "major differences" between the copies and Ford original equipment replacement parts.
"Ford engineers are concerned that increased damage and different safety system performance may occur in subsequent accidents if aftermarket copies are used for repairs," says Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood.
"All components of the vehicle structure are designed and tested to work together in a real-world crash including helping to ensure proper deployment of airbags," adds Paul Massie, said Paul Massie, Ford's powertrain and collision product marketing manager.
But Chevrolet dealer Bill Stasek finds "knock-off parts" improving almost daily.
However, he adds, the dealership's body shop may be better off using OEM parts. "If it takes the technician four hours instead of three to get a fit with a non-factory piece, the body shop manager may figure it's wiser in the long run to pay more for a factory piece."