Kenya’s auto industry attributes the high rate of road accidents to widespread use of fake car parts. Vehicle assemblers and car dealers say the importation of counterfeit parts, known as ‘alternatives’ is negatively impacting on the sector and motorists’ safety, while at the same time affecting vehicle performance.
According to the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA), 2,988 lives were lost in 2015 alone. While auto companies such as General Motors East Africa (GMEA) and Toyota Kenya continue with efforts to combat counterfeiting through various remedies, they admit to struggling to stop fake parts from flooding the market.
Kenya Motor Industry Association (KMI) chairperson and General Motors managing director Rita Kavashe says once the fake parts have entered the market it is difficult for manufacturers to recoup the losses. “The trade is affecting all car dealers.
We (General Motors) are losing over 16 per cent of our total revenues to counterfeits and this figure is huge,” she said, adding that the company has joined forces with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) to curb the practice.
Kavashe says soft counterfeiting—which involves products bearing the manufacturer’s actual part numbers—is the biggest fear for auto dealers. The products may be identical to the real car part without ever having been authorised by the car maker.
Simba Corporation executive director Dinesh Kotecha says the vice is mainly affecting the company’s car parts business and not the vehicles, saying some of the fake parts are being concealed in genuine packages. “It’s affecting everyone and I don’t think ACA is doing enough as it lacks the mechanism to solve the problem.
Kenya Bureau of Standards is also not going for the details to determine genuine and counterfeit parts, and this is affecting a lot of people and putting a lot of lives at risk,” he said. Counterfeit imports include a broad range of critical components such as fuel pumps, head lamps and brakes.
Moses Opallo, an independent car mechanic and dealer on Nairobi’s Ngong Road, estimates that China is responsible for over 75 per cent of counterfeit car parts entering Kenya with Toyota being the most affected car brand.
“China is manufacturing these cheap parts to meet the high demand from motorists who can’t afford the high cost of buying genuine parts. Only a few individuals and corporate firms have the capacity to buy genuine parts, so the Chinese are bringing in cheap parts,” he says.