Porsche is popular with more than just driving enthusiasts. Counterfeiters have become particularly sweet on the brand, as millions of dollars worth of illegal goods bearing fake Porsche logos trade hands each year. To combat counterfeit activity, Porsche formed a three-person team known as the Brand Protection team.
Porsche laid out the role of the trio of lawyers in a Monday press release. Basically, they are a crime-fighting team within the Porsche Legal Sales department in Zuffenhausen, Germany. The Brand Protection team’s sole mission is to seek out and confiscate any good that illegally carries Porsche branding. Most of the counterfeits the brand protectors come across are items you’d expect—posters, clocks, shirts, hats, and the like. But more worryingly, the team has seen a growing trend of fraudulent parts that could impact vehicle safety. These include items like brake rotors, air bags, and wheels.
“This is where things get dangerous,” said Thomas Fischer, one of Porsche’s brand protectors. “These spare parts are neither tested nor approved. It goes without saying that we want to prevent products like this ending up in our cars.”
Last year Porsche confiscated 33,000 counterfeit car parts worth an estimated $2.2 million. The vast majority of those parts were sold on online platforms like Amazon and eBay. But thanks to ramped up efforts from retailers to stop illicit activity, along with plenty of cease-and-desist notices from Porsche’s legal department, the brand protectors have seen online listings of fake auto parts drop by a third over the last year.
Counterfeit promotional items like sunglasses and keychains, worth an estimated $65 million last year, can be trickier to track down. That’s because the vast majority of those items are sold at trade shows rather than online. And when the brand protectors do intercept an online shipment of goods, it’s usually just one or two items in a small package rather than the full truck loads they were seeing a decade ago.
Porsche estimates that 80 percent of the counterfeit items come from China. Some of those are easy-to-spot fakes made in makeshift shops, while others are produced professionally in factories. Since quality fakes can be hard to spot, the brand protectors often seek help from those within Porsche’s procurement, logistics, and even Porsche Classic departments to weed out the counterfeit items.
The brand protection team is making inroads in its battle against counterfeit goods, but Porsche’s popularity and the often high price of its parts and goods are sure to keep them busy for the foreseeable future.