On Wednesday, the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a consumer safety advisory to alert consumers about the dangers of counterfeit airbags. According to the NHTSA, consumers who have been involved in an automobile accident and who have either had the airbags in their vehicle replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership or who have purchased a replacement airbag online within the past three years may have had a counterfeit airbag installed in their vehicle. While these airbags look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts, NHTSA testing showed consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the airbag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during airbag deployment.
Although the full scope and scale of this problem is uncertain, the NHTSA has identified numerous vehicle makes and models for which the counterfeit airbags may be available. The NHTSA emphasized that only those vehicles which have had an airbag replaced within the past three years may be at risk. At this point in the investigation, the NHTSA believes this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the United States vehicle fleet. The agency is not aware of any deaths or injuries linked to the counterfeit airbags.
The NHTSA has been working closely with several government agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Department of Justice, to investigate this matter. According to ICE Director John Morton, “organized criminals are selling dangerous counterfeit and substandard airbags to consumers and suppliers with little to no regard to hazardous health and safety consequences.” The NHTSA is also in the process of gathering information from automakers about their systems for verifying the authenticity of replacement parts.
Moving forward, the NHTSA said that it will continue to investigate this matter further and urged anyone who has been in a car accident and had their airbags replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership or ordered the airbags online within the last three years to contact the call center that has been established by their auto manufacturer to have their vehicle inspected and, if necessary, have the airbags replaced.