Mercedes-Benz seized almost two millions counterfeit products it says “endanger the health of road users” globally in 2021.
The German carmaker recently confirmed more than 650 customs and law enforcement raids of counterfeit products occurred in 2021 globally, equating to over 1.86 million counterfeit parts.
Compared to the 1.7 million counterfeit parts were confiscated in 2020, that’s an increase of close to 10 per cent.
Counterfeit products are parts are advertised and sold to consumers as if they’re OEM items, when they in fact are often manufactured more cheaply and offer worse performance.
They’re not to be confused with aftermarket parts, which are offered by third-party suppliers as an alternative to OEM parts.
Mercedes-Benz says it has been taking “rigorous action against counterfeit products”, including focusing on safety-critical components such as brake discs, wheels, and body and steering parts.
“The counterfeiting industry has organised crime structures and often generates higher profits than drug trafficking, said Mercedes-Benz Group AG member of the board of managment, integrity and legal affairs, Renata Jungo Brüngger.
The German automaker says product pirates, people, or companies that manufacturer and distribute imitation and counterfeit goods, have increasingly been using online platforms and social media channels to reach unwitting customers.
In 2021, more than 126,000 counterfeit products were removed from online platforms according to Ms Jungo Brüngger.
“Our brand protection experts have quickly adapted to the counterfeiting industry’s growing business model,” said Ms Jungo Brüngger.
Mercedes-Benz says it can be “hard to visually distinguish” counterfeit products from genuine parts, but their quality is usually poor, and alleges they often don’t meet the minimum legal requirements in terms of safety.
The counterfeit parts are typically also manufactured under inhumane conditions with no regard to human rights, environmental standards, and occupational safety, according to Mercedes-Benz.
As previously detailed, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), peak body for car brands in Australia, has been working with the Australian Border Force (ABF) to train frontline officers to recognise counterfeit parts as part of a campaign called Genuine is Best.
Examples of dangerous counterfeit products that have previously been identified by the ABF include wheels that shatter in low-speed pothole impacts, oil filters that don’t filter oil, and brake components containing asbestos.
In one case, the team even found brake pads made of compressed grass clippings.
‘There is a tendency in the community to view counterfeit goods as harmless, or victimless crimes buts this is misleading,” said an ABF spokesperson in a statement from September 2021.
“Counterfeit vehicle parts, particular those designed for emergency response, for example brake pads or airbags, pose significant safety risks and these consumer and broader community impacts can be significant, and sometimes fatal.”