Faulty Chinese airbags have entered used-car market, NHTSA says
Counterfeit airbags that can explode or fail to deploy may be on as many as 230,000 used cars.
Chinese-made airbags are the latest black market infiltration, in which cheaper knockoffs are sold as original equipment to independent repair shops, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fake airbags may already be installed in as many as 230,000 used cars -- about 0.1 percent of the country's entire light-duty fleet -- within the past three years, NHTSA says. Vehicles that have been repaired at authorized dealerships, which all carry OEM replacement parts, are not affected.
In August, federal agents raided a North Carolina man's home and found more than 1,500 counterfeit airbags inside. The airbags may be circulating throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, according to unnamed agents who spoke with WCNC-36 in Charlotte.
While the airbags have official-looking company logos and proper markings, during an accident they will fail -- over and over again. According to NHTSA lab tests, many of these airbags either didn't deploy when necessary or exploded shrapnel and fiery pieces of the bag straight into the driver's face.
If you're driving a vehicle that has been involved in an accident in the past three years and was not repaired at a dealership, NHTSA recommends checking the car's service records and looking up VIN reports. Airbags purchased on eBay or other third-party markets are more likely to be fake, especially if the price is less than $400, according to the agency. Cars with salvage and rebuilt titles are also more likely to include one of the fake airbags.
So far, the agency has identified a specific list of vehicles to which the counterfeit airbags may have been installed, but admits it does not know the "full scope and scale of the problem," including the alleged "organized criminals" behind them. There have been no related reported deaths or injuries. A list of automaker call centers and additional information are available on the SaferCar.gov website.
While legal aftermarket parts are common and used successfully in the repair industry, the most critical safety features of any car -- including seat belts, ABS controllers and other components -- are typically only supplied by the automaker or an automaker's official supplier. In this case, as shown in the video below, cheaping out on a fix could bring severe consequences.
What about the guy importing the airbags? What about the places who are buying the cheapest airbags possible and installing them on customer cars? Deflecting the problem on China for the actions of others is the wrong answer in my opinion. Some guy probably ordered the bags to certain specs from a Chinese company and got exactly what he ordered. If this is true, then it's a person or group of persons responsible.
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