ACPN: For nearly a year now, Affinia has been very vocal over concerns about thin-walled rotors. It started with an open letter to the industry, then a sort of public service message to consumers, followed by a lawsuit against some of your competitors. Can you give us an update on what’s happening and how Affinia came to be aware of this issue?
Terry McCormack: Affinia has been doing everything in its power to call attention to this issue. This is first and foremost a safety issue for all motorists. Second, it’s about standards for “life and limb” products such that the motorist is assured they have been serviced with replacement products that meet or exceed original equipment performance.
ACPN: As part of the lawsuit, Affinia acquired rotors manufactured by competitive manufacturers. What did Affinia find out from the study?
TM: A little more than a year ago, Affinia began seeing a new class of lighter, thinner and cheaper rotors appear in the market, apparently in response to the huge run-up in materials costs that had caused rotor prices to spike by more than one-third in recent years. We began examining the new products and discovered that there’s nothing magical about their design that allows them to achieve the low pricing: simply less material resulting in lower cost, and these rotors have significantly less material than the OE rotors they are meant to replace.
ACPN: What has been the response from other rotor manufacturers?
TM: Despite what one competitor has said, the differences cannot be chalked up to “normal and natural variations” in the manufacturing process. We’re talking about some weight differences of more than 15%, and cheek-thickness differences of more than 25%. Make no mistake about it, this redesign change was deliberate. Ongoing testing by a respected independent lab has shown that the lightweight rotors are more prone than their OE counterparts to cracking and outright failure. The lab has done enough testing to satisfy the scientists that the results are statistically valid.
ACPN: What does Affinia hope to accomplish with the court case?
TM: Our quarrel with some of the manufacturers and importers who sell these lightweight rotors is when they promote and advertise them as meeting or exceeding OE performance and specifications. That simply gives the independent aftermarket a bad name. That is how Dura International promoted the lightweight rotors that we cited in our lawsuit. The laboratory measurements and performance testing on those rotors showed they fell far short of the OE specs and performance. To us, that’s false advertising and unfair competition, so we went to court to stop it.
ACPN: How concerned should the shops be about these rotors?
TM: Here’s the main thing that should bother all distributors and technicians; to our knowledge these importers and manufacturer’s made indiscriminate rotor design deviations without any engineering validation. And, they didn’t tell a soul. We’re telling the public what we have found in the marketplace and expressing our concerns about motor vehicle safety.