Affinia Group Inc. a leading auto parts firm sued two rival companies on Wednesday, claiming they are importing substandard, lightweight replacement brake rotors in order to gain a price advantage at the expense of customer safety. In its suit, Affinia claims the Chinese-made rotors fail to meet the original manufacturer standards, and that the parts run at hotter temperatures, are more likely to crack, and have a higher risk of failure that could impair a vehicle's ability to stop quickly and safely.
The two firms named in the suit are Dura International, an aftermarket auto parts supplier, and CRW Parts, a distributor of Dura's parts.
Scott Howat, a spokesman for Affinia, said that the Dura rotors threaten customers and the marketplace. "We're concerned about two things: public safety and fair competition," he said. "We just believe that it's important for the public to know that there is a safety risk involved, and we're just asking that Dura stop making the false claims that these rotors meet or exceed [manufacturer] specifications."
The substandard brake rotors could fail prematurely and could "come apart in operation," Howat said.
This spring, Affinia contracted with an independent lab to compare Dura's rotors to the ones they typically replace, the original rotors that ship from the manufacturer. According to the test results included in the suit, Dura's rotors were in some cases up to 18% lighter, Affinia alleges. In addition, the rotors allegedly had significantly larger air gaps within them—in some cases up to 68% bigger—than called for by the original manufacturer specifications.
According to the complaint, Dura and CRW made "false or misleading representations that some of Dura's brake rotors meet or exceed Original Equipment specifications and performance when they do not." Because Dura lightweight rotors are less expensive than Affinia's rotors, Affinia claims it will suffer "irreparable harm, lost sales and damages." Affinia does not allege that all brake rotors supplied by Dura are substandard.
In a statement to ABCNews.com, Dura President John R. Kelley said, "We received the complaint yesterday and we are currently reviewing it. Dura has and always will stand behind its value line of brake drums and rotors. It's important to note that Dura has met Affinia in the marketplace and we expect equal success against it in Court. The complaint, simply, has no merit."
A spokesman for CRW Parts said, "CRW disagrees with the claims in Affinia's complaint and intends to defend against them. It is our policy not to comment otherwise."
Meanwhile, Midas, a major auto parts retailer, says it will be longer sell the Dura rotors because of the concerns raised by Affinia. Midas issued a release to all of its stores warning that "anyone who had a brake rotor replacement in the last year is at risk of having these lightweight rotors on their vehicle, and that these lightweight rotors could result in longer stopping distances and wheel lock-up."
Midas recommended providing customers with a free brake inspection to check for cracks in recently installed rotors, and included a list of brands that Affinia's tests identified as suspect.