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IIHS: Tracy’s aftermarket-parts Fit showed some higher risk, but still would be rated ‘Good’

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Insurance | Repair Operations | Technology

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of attorney Todd Tracy’s data concluded that a 2013 Honda Fit crash-tested with numerous aftermarket parts would still have achieved “Good” moderate-overlap ratings.

However, it acknowledged that some measurements fell outside the normal range of test variability and indicated increased risk of injuries, even if the overall results fell within the “Good” threshold.

“It is possible that replacing the bumper reinforcement, radiator support and left front wheel with non-OEM alternatives in the test of the 2013 Fit resulted in somewhat more toepan intrusion and a slight degradation of protection for the driver’s left knee/thigh/hip and right foot/ankle,” the IIHS wrote in an advisory for its insurer members. “These were the only measurements reported by Tracy and Karco that varied from the baseline results by more than would be expected in exactly repeated crash tests. Even though these and other measures indicate a somewhat increased risk of injury compared with the test of an unmodified Honda Fit, the overall rating for the cars in both tests would be good according to IIHS protocol and consistent with our own test.”

The IIHS examined the results Tracy had made publicly available after “Insurers and repair shop industry representatives have sought the Institute’s response to assertions made in these trade forums that reference the IIHS moderate overlap front crash test and the law firm’s claims to uncover ‘drastic’ differences in crash test outcomes in Fits outfitted with certain aftermarket parts that weren’t sourced from the original equipment manufacturer.”

As the IIHS’ moderate-overlap crash testing of a 2009 Honda Fit figured largely in the experiment, “we thought that we should comment on our take,” IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said in an interview Thursday.

Tracy’s public release of the complete crash data — which Zuby called “very good and open of him” — meant the testing organization could do so, Zuby said. He said that while the IIHS disagreed with Tracy’s conclusions, it applauded his transparency. (Indeed, it’s the transparency in results and methodology on both Tracy and the IIHS’ parts that allows for such honest, apples-to-apples public debate. It sets a bar for other technical testing and discussion on collision issues.)

Zuby said that a couple of variables found “a little bit more intrusion or higher forces on the dummy” than had been seen in tests of unaltered Honda Fits, “they’re still within the range that we would call ‘Good.'”

“It’s hard to pin that necessarily on the parts swaps but … I still think you can’t rule that out,” he said.

Tracy, who has said the tests mean “serious and catastrophic injuries follow” from the use of aftermarket parts, said the IIHS analysis actually proved his point — and he thanked them for it.

“Replacement structural parts must exactly replicate the original parts to preserve the integrity of a vehicle’s crashworthiness, whether they are sourced from the OEM or an aftermarket supplier,” the IIHS said.

“I agree a thousand percent,” Tracy said.

Aftermarket parts need to be like kind and quality, and his testing — and the IIHS’s own conclusions — proved they weren’t, according to Tracy.

“They’ve admitted what our test did … they’ve admitted there were differences,” Tracy said.

“Well guess what? Thank you,” he also said.

Still ‘Good’

Tracy’s experiment involved Karco Engineering subjecting a 2013 Honda Fit with aftermarket parts, a 2009 Honda Fit repaired like one owned by two Tracy clients, and a control 2010 Fit to a 40 mph moderate-overlap crash test. (For crash testing purposes, the 2009-13 Fits are structurally identical.)

The 2013 Honda Fit’s imitation components included Certified Automotive Parts Association-certified fenders and a CAPA-certified hood; a NSF-certified bumper reinforcement beam; an uncertified aftermarket radiator support, windshield and drivers-side front wheel; and two uncertified aftermarket hood hinges, according to experiment contributor Burl’s Collision.

The IIHS determined that taken together, none of the crash-test results would have led to any of the 2013 Fit’s criteria being downgraded to “Acceptable.”

“Based on a scientific analysis of the data, we conclude that the results indicate that the Fit equipped with non-OEM aftermarket parts in the Tracy test performed on par with our evaluation of the good-rated 2009 Fit, with across-the-board good scores for structure, injury measures, and restraints and kinematics,” the IIHS wrote. “The variation across the three Tracy tests is similar to what we have observed conducting repeated tests of identical model vehicles. Our evaluation of the publicly shared results hasn’t uncovered concerns about the aftermarket parts used in the law firm’s demonstration tests.”

The aftermarket-parts 2013 Fit posted higher injury-related and intrusion-related results compared to Tracy’s control 2010 Fit and the IIHS and Honda’s own crash-tested unaltered 2009 Fits, but the scores would still be classified as “Good,” the IIHS explained.

“Although some of the differences between the tests of the unmodified cars and the test of the 2013 model with non-OEM parts seem large, none of the measures shown in Table 2 represent a high risk of a severe injury,” the IIHS wrote. “(Foot/toe accelerations aren’t related to injury risk.) The HIC values in Table 2, for example, all represent a less than 1 percent risk of severe head injury.

“Similarly, the compression forces recorded on the left femur in all four tests also are well below the level (7,300 N) at which the IIHS protocol would downgrade its assessment of protection for the knee, thigh and hip because serious injuries, including fractures, wouldn’t be expected below this level. In fact, a force of 10,000 N is a passing grade for regulatory frontal crash tests.”

‘Good’ and ‘like kind and quality’

To the idea that achieving an IIHS “Good” was good enough, Tracy argued, “That’s not true.”

Aftermarket parts must be “like kind and quality” and match the OEM versions precisely “by their (the IIHS’) own definition,” Tracy said, referring to the “must exactly replicate” language above.

“Well guess what, they didn’t,” he said.

He raises a good point: As a consumer contractually assured of receiving like kind and quality parts and an insurer legally obligated to ensure all parts are identical, it’s hard to see how a “Good” but riskier car would be a legally acceptable substitute for the safer baseline “Good” vehicle.

The IIHS conclusions might be more relevant and reassuring to an out-of-pocket customer willing to accept a safety downgrade to save money so long as the overall crash performance is “Good.” However, a customer paying monthly premiums for the right to have a pre-loss car with like kind and quality parts might feel shortchanged — as might the legislators and regulators mandating imitation parts be identical.

Asked if two parts producing “Good” results were really “like kind and quality” if one increased the risk beyond the normal crash-testing variability, Zuby said, “I have to confess, I don’t really know how ‘like kind and quality’ is judged.”

If the question was, however, whether the aftermarket parts in the test introduced “serious degradation” to the driver occupant protection in a moderate-overlap crash, “our conclusion would be no,” Zuby said.

“My guess is that no one’s ever tried to do an analysis of what ‘like kind and quality’ means with respect to crash protection,” Zuby said.

The first step would be understanding the natural variability in crash test results for unaltered vehicles, he said. If swapping out a part or a type of repair led to results outside that range for the particular crash mode, “an argument could be made that it’s not ‘like kind and quality.'”

But if the results fell within the natural variability, “it would be hard to argue … that you changed the ‘like kind and quality'” of the protection afforded the occupants in that “crash mode,” Zuby said.

Variability, and results outside of it

The IIHS determined that many of the increased intrusion and injury scores found on the aftermarket-parts Fit could be passed off as the standard variability its research had found exists between crash-tested unaltered cars.

“In 1998, IIHS engineers examined the repeatability of the moderate overlap front test. Engineers observed differences in HICs, ranging from 17 to 73 across four comparisons,” the IIHS wrote. “Left femur compression differed by as much as 700 N in repeated tests. Measures of intrusion at the footrest, left and center toepan and brake pedal varied by 6, 8, 7 and 5 centimeters, respectively, across seven comparisons. Left and right instrument panel intrusion varied by up to 9 centimeters, and the A-to-B-pillar measure varied by as much as 11 cm across the same seven pairs of tests.”

“When you do something like a crash test, you’re never going to get exactly the same results,” Zuby said. The element of variability matters when trying to determine if a variable introduced into the testing legitimately had an effect.

The IIHS acknowledged that two measurements were off by “more than would be expected,” though one of these statistics might still have fallen within normal tolerances depending on what ended up being the baseline.

“Thus, the left femur compression force and the toepan intrusion measures in the test with non-OEM repair parts are the only reported measures that differed from Karco’s control test by more than would be expected between two exactly replicated tests. In the case of the toepan intrusion measures, the differences when compared with the IIHS test of the Fit are within the expected range of variability.”

One measurement for the driver dummy’s left femur saw the bone experiencing a peak of about 1,685 Newtons, compared to 709 N on the glued-roof Fit and just 180 N on the control Fit.

Tracy agreed that “testing slop” might occur, and HIC numbers might be “one or two percent off,” — but the “femurs were quadruple,” Tracy said.

“The IIHS Advisory proved our hypothesis that aftermarket parts and non-oem approved repair methods do not perform the same as OEM parts,” Tracy said in a statement.

“… IIHS admits that some of the differences between the vehicles appear large

“IIHS admits that the tests prove an increased risk of injury

“If the aftermarket parts and the non-approved repair methods performed the same as OEM, the data plots, injury values, and performance values should be identical. They aren’t. That’s because the OEM develop and design its vehicles with OEM not aftermarket or non-approved repair methods.”

Tracy also challenged the source of the data, arguing that “I don’t expect any sort of unbiased analysis from the IIHS when they are on the insurance industry gravy train.”

Asked about the accusation, Zuby stated, “we pride ourselves on being objective”

In this case, “we’re using the data he had” and IIHS’ published test protocols, Zuby said.

“Anybody could come to the same conclusions that we’ve come in this advisory,” he said.

More information:

“OEM vs. aftermarket parts and Honda Fit crash tests”

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Feb. 15, 2018

Todd Tracy Honda Fit crash testing results

Images:

A 2013 Honda Fit with multiple aftermarket parts is shown following a 40 mph moderate-overlap crash test conducted in December 2017. (Provided by Tracy Law Firm)

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of attorney Todd Tracy’s data concluded that a 2013 Honda Fit crash-tested with numerous aftermarket parts would still have achieved “Good” moderate-overlap ratings. (Provided by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

A 2013 Honda Fit received a moderate-overlap crash test while sporting imitation components included Certified Automotive Parts Association-certified fenders and a CAPA-certified hood; a NSF-certified bumper reinforcement beam; an uncertified aftermarket radiator support, windshield and drivers-side front wheel; and two uncertified aftermarket hood hinges, according to experiment contributor Burl’s Collision. (Provided by Tracy Law Firm)

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of attorney Todd Tracy’s data concluded that a 2013 Honda Fit crash-tested with numerous aftermarket parts would still have achieved “Good” moderate-overlap ratings. However, it acknowledged that some measurements fell outside the normal range of test variability and indicated increased risk of injuries, even if the overall results fell within the “Good” threshold. (Provided by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

A new presentation from Tracy Law Firm automotive safety attorney Todd Tracy indicates that “driver” heads, necks, femurs and toes were subjected to greater stress during the crash of two Honda Fits bearing aftermarket parts and repairs not approved by the OEM. (Provided by Tracy Law Firm)