In Hong Kong, there's a barely-underground cottage industry of slightly crooked entrepreneurs blatantly producing counterfeit brake parts and packing them in authentic-looking Brembo and AP Racing boxes. You can read see more on a latest expose by Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily (no relation to the Silicon Valley company) over at , but it's not a new problem. Counterfeit car parts are a major issue worldwide; stronger consumer protection laws in the United States, either.
I spoke to Caroline Fallara, communications manager at the Brembo USA offices near Detroit, to get a handle on the scope of the issue. After all, it's enough of a concern that companies like ACDelco have on how to spot fakes, and where to report them.
Fallara told me that counterfeiting is an ongoing problem for a high-end, high-profile manufacturers like Brembo, especially overseas. eBay can be particularly problematic—online sellers list hundreds of "Brembo" brake covers, none of which are legitimate and all of which use the Brembo name and logo illegally. Brembo is working on shutting these fakes down.
But covers aren't functional brake parts. The aforementioned Hong Kong counterfeiters were producing knockoff calipers. How can a North American consumer determine that what they're getting is legitimate? There are a few indications, and while most are common sense, they're worth bearing in mind.
Brembo's authorized resellers and distributors realize that fitting a brake caliper is slightly more complex than just selecting an application—wheel clearance and other considerations incentivize retailers to get on the phone and ensure you're ordering the correct part. Dealing with retailers like this— and Brembo's official US distributor, , for example—ensures that your parts will be authentic. This is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself.
A counterfeit brake caliper is going to look like an incredible deal. Fallara says that any "Brembo" part priced 50-60% below average retail should raise a big red flag. There are deals out there, she says, but no deal is that good.
Lastly, authentic Brembo products ship with serial numbers that can be verified with Race Technologies, who can tell you the date of manufacture and even when the brakes entered the country. If it's not in their database, it's probably not legitimate. Even if you don't buy your Brembo brakes from Race Technologies, Fallara says they'll happily cross-reference the database and let you know if you're dealing with a real product.
The good news is that, for now at least, counterfeit Brembo brakes are less prevalent in the United States than overseas. While there are always exceptions, American consumer protection and intellectual property laws shut down domestic counterfeiters fairly quickly. In other countries, particularly in Asia, the situation is grim, however.
Brembo, like other OEM and aftermarket suppliers, is working on the issue. Brembo says it will have more to share about combating counterfeit operations overseas later this year at SEMA. Until then, especially if you're an overseas reader, do your homework to find an authorized dealer.
Pay a fair price to a reputable vendor. And if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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