10-10-2012, 12:12 PM
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ASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. safety regulators today issued a warning to consumers with repaired vehicles that they may have air bags that don't inflate in an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said testing revealed the problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles involved in crashes. It said only vehicles that may have had an air bag replaced in the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at risk.
The safety agency said it was not aware of any deaths or injuries related to the counterfeit airbags -- which also could expel metal shrapnel during deployment.
NHTSA said the full scope of the problem is uncertain, but it believes the issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.
"Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection."
The counterfeit air bags look nearly identical to certified parts, and bear the insignia and branding of major automakers, NHTSA said.
The agency said consumers who may have affected cars and trucks should contact call centers established by automakers to have their vehicle inspected and air bags replaced if necessary, at their own expense. The list of call centers and additional information is available at www.safercar.gov.
NHTSA said it was working with several other federal agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Justice, to better understand the issue and how to prevent counterfeit air bags from being purchased and installed.
"Organized criminals are selling dangerous counterfeit and substandard airbags to consumers and suppliers with little to no regard to hazardous health and safety consequences," ICE Director John Morton said. "We will continue to aggressively investigate criminal supply chains ... and bring these criminals to justice."
Carfax, the vehicle history reporting company, said it would provide a free service to check for prior airbag deployments at www.carfax.com/airbag.
"In addition, the airbag systems of any used car, especially those with prior damage, should be inspected by a qualified mechanic, body shop or airbag specialist to ensure they are working properly," said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax.
NHTSA CONSUMER SAFETY ADVISORY
NHTSA Alerting Consumers to Dangers of Counterfeit Air Bags
Traffic safety agency urges vehicle owners and repair professionals to use only certified, original equipment replacement parts
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a consumer safety advisory to alert vehicle owners and repair professionals to the dangers of counterfeit air bags. NHTSA has become aware of a problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles that have been involved in a crash. While these air bags look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts—including bearing the insignia and branding of major automakers—NHTSA testing showed consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. NHTSA is not aware of any deaths or injuries connected to counterfeit air bags.
While the full scope and scale of the problem of counterfeit air bags is uncertain from currently available data, NHTSA has identified certain vehicle makes and models for which these air bags may be available and believes this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet. Only vehicles which have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at risk.
Consumers whose vehicles have been in a crash and had their air bags replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership within the past three years or who have purchased a replacement air bag online should contact the call center that has been established by their auto manufacturer to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense and their air bag replaced if necessary. The full list of call centers and additional information are available at www.SaferCar.gov.
"Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection."
"We expect all motor vehicle equipment to meet federal safety standards—and air bags in particular play a central role in keeping drivers and passengers safe in the event of a crash," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "That's why it's critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their air bag."
NHTSA has been working with a number of government agencies—including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Intellectual Property Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice—to better understand the issue of counterfeit air bags and how to prevent them from being purchased and installed in vehicles.
"Organized criminals are selling dangerous counterfeit and substandard airbags to consumers and suppliers with little to no regard to hazardous health and safety consequences," said ICE Director John Morton. "We will continue to aggressively investigate criminal supply chains with our law enforcement and private industry partners and bring these criminals to justice."
NHTSA is currently gathering information from automakers about their systems for verifying the authenticity of replacement parts and is working with the industry to make the driving public aware of the potential safety risk posed by counterfeit air bags. Moving forward, the agency will continue to monitor consumer complaints, police accident reports, and other sources for additional information.
CONSUMERS THAT SHOULD NOT BE AT RISK:
- Consumers who purchased their vehicle new and have not had their air bags replaced
- Consumers who have full knowledge of the entire history of their used vehicle (including knowing whether the vehicle had been in a crash in the last three years and being certain that the air bag was replaced at a new car dealership)
CONSUMERS THAT MAY BE AT RISK AND SHOULD CONTACT THE CALL CENTER ESTABLISHED BY THEIR AUTO MANUFACTURER:
- Consumers who have had air bags replaced within the past three years at a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership
- Consumers who have purchased a used car that may have sustained an air bag deployment before their purchase
- Consumers who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed
- Consumers who have purchased replacement air bags from eBay or other non-certified sources—especially if they were purchased at unusually low prices (i.e. less than $400)
For the list of call centers established by auto manufacturers and more information on counterfeit air bags and other vehicle safety issues, visit www.SaferCar.gov.