Daimler says counterfeiters capabilities are "on the rise"

The brand protection team at car manufacturer Daimler intercepted around 1.4m fake counterfeit components in 2016, according to its latest sustainability report.

The parent company of Mercedes-Benz says it is engaged in a constant battle against criminals who are producing fake part such as wheels and rims, suspension components, filters, brake parts and windscreens "on an industrial scale".

"Visually, the counterfeit products are barely distinguishable from the genuine article, they are usually of inferior quality and therefore pose a risk to vehicle occupants or uninvolved third parties," according to Daimler board member Renata Jungo Brüngger who is responsible for integrity and legal affairs.

The consequences of using counterfeit components can be devastating. Mercedes-Benz' in-house magazine cites a case in 2013 when one of its sedan cars parked outside an apartment block in the US burst into flames, destroying most of the three-storey building. On investigation, the culprit turned out to be a counterfeit cooling fan control unit.

The global networking and professionalism of the counterfeiters are also on the rise, with digitisation opening up new distribution channels to the makers of pirated products, according to the group, which says it often sees links to organised crime through its investigations. Many motorists purchase dangerous fake parts on the internet, assuming them to be genuine.

Daimler reckons brand protection plays an important role in terms of safety and sustainability, so it has a dedicated team - drawn from several divisions across the company and headed by Peter Stiefel – that works closely with customs and international law enforcement agencies.

"We want to make it as difficult as possible for counterfeiters to produce or sell their dangerous goods," says Stiefel in a recent blog post.

Daimler's brand protection strategy is based on the three pillars of 'detecting, attacking and preventing', according to the report. The team inspects suspicious products on online platforms or at trade fairs around the world in an effort to detect counterfeiters, looking for typical warning signs such as a lower price than for the genuine part, differences in trademark and sale through dubious online sources.

"There are wide profit margins for counterfeiters, because, among other things, they avoid spending on research, development and quality inspections," says Daimler. "Human rights and fair working conditions are just as unimportant as the prevention of environmental risks."

Daimler's team collaborates with local authorities worldwide on raids targeted at the large counterfeiter networks as well as at breaking up their production and distribution structures, and make efforts to pursue criminal proceedings or actions for injunctions and damages against the perpetrators.

Genuine Mercedes-Benz parts always carry the trademarked logo of a three-pointed star in a ring, a hologram and a 10-digit part number.

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