Affinia Group has filed a petition requesting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin rulemaking toward adoption of a first-ever Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for brake rotors.
Earlier this month, Affinia settled the false advertising lawsuits it filed against Dura International and CRW Inc. The parties agreed to resolve their differences by entering into mutual consent judgments, which prevent them from advertising that their rotors meet or exceed original equipment performance standards unless they possess scientifically reliable and objectively verifiable engineering tests. As a result of the settlement, Dura is no longer a target of Affinia’s lightweight rotor campaign.
The petition for a safety standard is the latest step in Affinia’s ongoing public awareness campaign to bring to light important safety issues affecting aftermarket auto parts and to push for effective action where necessary. The new Safety Standard that Affinia seeks from NHTSA would require all rotors sold in the United States to meet minimum performance standards for structural strength and crack-resistance under rigorous laboratory testing. No such mandatory standard exists in the U.S. today, although rotors are a critical component of a vehicle’s most important safety feature, its brake system.
The proposed rule would also for the first time require rotors to be stamped with identifying markings, including a "DOT" (U.S. Department of Transportation) symbol representing the manufacturer’s certification that the part meets the new standard.
"This is what we call a ‘life and limb’ issue," said Terry McCormack, president and CEO of Affinia Group. "There are no components more integral to motorist protection than brake rotors. American drivers have a right to expect such critical links in the safety chain to perform when it counts."
Besides the NHTSA petition, Affinia’s Public Awareness Campaign, launched in mid-2008, has included scientific investigation, public awareness statements and education efforts, lobbying for support from industry organizations and presentation of laboratory test findings to appropriate government officials.
Affinia noted that it is not alone in this public awareness initiative. The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) has issued its own call to action to the industry through its "Know Your Parts" campaign: http://www.aftermarketsuppliers.org/knowyourparts.php. Affinia applauds the trade group’s efforts.
Here is why Affinia felt its campaign was necessary: Until recently, manufacturers of replacement brake parts consistently designed and built their products to match the design specifications and to meet or exceed the performance and durability of the Original Equipment parts that they were meant to replace. Meeting or exceeding OE specifications thus came to be understood by consumers and auto technicians alike as the de facto standard for replacement brake parts.
Unfortunately, within the last year and a half, a number of companies have been importing and distributing aftermarket brake rotors that are lighter, thinner and cheaper than their OE counterparts. Affinia says it also has identified numerous instances in which importers or distributors of lightweight rotors have falsely asserted in advertising or on their Internet sites that the rotors meet OE specifications and performance levels. The end users of these rotors retail do-it-yourself customers and technicians who work in vehicle repair shops have no way of knowing that such assertions are not accurate. Thus, they often will select a replacement rotor based on price, on the assumption that all replacement rotors provide an adequate level of performance, durability and safety.
Affinia says it believes that the only appropriate remedy for this significant public-safety risk is a federal standard that all rotors must meet. Over the years, the automotive industries of North America and Europe have developed separate, but roughly comparable, laboratory testing procedures and criteria for rating the strength and crack-resistance of brake rotors. Affinia would in general prefer adoption of the stricter European criteria, but believes that even adoption of the domestic standards would be welcome because, as the company said in its petition to NHTSA, they "would assure that the worst offenders among lightweight rotors could no longer be sold in this country."
A link to the petition can be found at the Affinia website: www.affiniagroup.com.