A massive haul of counterfeit Toyota car parts, a significant proportion of which was destined for sale in Australia, has been uncovered in Guangzhou City in south-east China in a raid conducted by Chinese police acting on information provided by Toyota Australia.
Around 33,000 fake parts, with an estimated retail value of over $1 million, including everything from filters, cables and seals to safety-critical items such as airbags, brake master cylinders and brake pads were seized.
The replica parts were produced in a large-scale manufacturing facility and authorities also identified around 55,000 packages branded in the style of Toyota Genuine Parts, complete with barcodes and serial numbers.
The company concerned is also known to manufacture car parts counterfeiting those of other Japanese automotive brands.
Recently Ford Australia has also intercepted fake parts, including alloy rims to suit high-performance FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) models and air intake snorkels and grilles for the Ranger light commercial, while Holden has seized counterfeit parts including body panels, alloy rims, grilles, taillights and radiators.
Information leading to the Guangzhou raid resulted from Toyota's recent Federal Court proceedings against two local retailers selling dangerously inferior counterfeit airbag components.
As a result of the settlement of those proceedings, the retailers agreed to contact all affected customers and offer them a refund.
Details of the source manufacturer were also supplied to Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, which worked with its Chinese subsidiary to orchestrate the raid.
In light of the seizure Australia's peak body representing car importers and distributors, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), is warning consumers to be aware of the global nature of the counterfeit parts business and the dangers of using fake parts in the service or repair of their vehicles.
The FCAI's Genuine is Best initiative highlights the safety, performance and durability benefits delivered by genuine replacement parts, and FCAI chief executive officer Tony Weber said the biggest issue in fitting fake parts is a potential compromise to vehicle safety.
"While this seizure is shocking, sadly it's not uncommon and using counterfeit parts, knowingly or otherwise, means you're taking a huge risk," Mr Weber said.
"It offers a clear reminder to consumers that just because they see a branded box, bag or label they shouldn't assume they're buying a genuine part. The way to avoid safety concerns posed by fake parts is to ensure you or your repairer sources genuine replacement parts from the vehicle maker's authorised supply chain," he said.