Automotive Recyclers Admonish General Motors’ Circular Economy Detour

The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) today is admonishing General Motors (GM) and its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mary Barra for GM’s new anti-environmental position on the utilization of recycled GM parts.  GM’s revised position statement on recycled and salvage original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) parts, found on the corporation’s updated “Genuine GM Parts” website, significantly backtracks on the company’s economic stewardship commitments to conserve resources and protect the global environment, and contradicts its publicly stated Environmental Principles by now attacking the use of environmentally friendly recycled GM parts.

Despite touting a commitment to the basic tenants of a circular economy – recovering all products, components and materials at their highest utility and value – GM now fails to embrace fundamental reutilization of their very own parts once they have left a dealership.  It is reprehensible for GM’s corporate position to be one that does not support the reuse of recycled GM parts in vehicle repair while claiming a leadership role in the circular economy movement.

The utilization of recycled OEM automotive parts has been widely accepted for decades and has a long track record of successful and safe use in vehicle service and repairs.  In fact, GM acknowledged in their company’s 2010 position statement on the issue that “Recycled original equipment parts may also be used for repair.…A recycled original equipment part, may be an acceptable choice to maintain your vehicle’s originally designed appearance and safety performance.”

GM’s revised position statement is not only a reversal, but is potentially misleading consumers with insinuations that recycled GM parts are “non-GM” parts.  In the revised position statement GM includes the following paragraph:

“Genuine GM Parts are designed and constructed using metals with specific properties, thicknesses and stamping features built to perform in a consistent and predictable way during a collision event. The use of non-OEM structural components may compromise the overall crashworthiness and occupant safety of General Motors vehicles in a subsequent collision. In summary, General Motors does not support the use of salvage or recycled parts in a vehicle’s repair. GM recommends the use of Genuine GM Parts in repairs to help ensure the vehicle is returned to pre-collision condition.”

Recycled parts are not the same as non-OEM parts.  GM parts do not cease to be OEM parts when moved from one car to another. References to the “use of non-OEM structural components” immediately before GM states that it does not support the use of salvage or recycled parts in the company’s position statement is deceptive and ARA believes it is stated in this way to confuse consumers into thinking that recycled GM parts are not GM’s components.

As their market shares shrink from legitimate competition, auto manufacturers have responded with unfounded attacks and misleading information about recycled OEM parts and other part replacement options.  ARA believes that the Federal Trade Commission should take a serious look into the actions of GM and other auto manufacturers that continue to engage in activities that malign the recycling of their own products without a shred of research to substantiate their claims.

GM and other manufacturers continue to fail to cite any specific data or research to back up their claims that recycled parts are inferior to new parts. “We believe the campaign by GM continues to be part of a coordinated and concerted effort among auto manufacturers to limit competition in the automotive parts replacement market by engaging in an ongoing campaign to undermine the recycled OEM part market,” says ARA CEO Michael E. Wilson.

“Regrettably, GM’s revised “Genuine GM Parts” campaign seems to be a rather transparent attempt to hoodwink consumers to boost sales of expensive “new” parts and malign entirely appropriate, environmentally beneficial recycled GM replacement parts,” says Wilson.  “Recycled OEM parts are genuine OEM parts built to the same quality, durability, fit and finish specifications as new replacement parts.  These recycled OEM parts went through the same rigid GM testing to ensure they are integrable and functional with all specified vehicle systems.  These recycled parts are fully functional and in most cases match or exceed the condition of the components before the repair or service.” explains Wilson.

It is disappointing that GM has now taken a corporate position to disavow basic reuse principles that offer undisputed environmental benefits. ARA believes that GM should stand by the durability and quality of the parts it produces and calls on GM leadership to cease their current anti-environmental and misinformation activities related to maligning recycled GM parts — the very parts that they manufactured.