In a report released yesterday, the National Highway Traffic And Safety Administration is warning consumers that tens of thousands of counterfeit airbag devices may have been installed in vehicles that have received repairs after crashes during a three year period.
A majority of the counterfeit airbags in question are believed to have originated from China [Color me shocked! -Ed.] and in addition to bearing logos and markings similar to ones used by automakers, they also look virtually identical to certified replacement parts used by manufacturers. However in numerous tests performed by the NHTSA, the phony units either failed to inflate properly, or simply did not inflate at all, which is extremely dangerous for drivers in a crash. In addition to these findings, a troubling discovery was made in one particular crash test (the video can be seen below) where a phony airbag did not inflate and instead sprayed the driver with dozens of pieces of shrapnel and other materials upon impact.
As a result of these tests, the NHTSA is urging owners of vehicles that have been equipped with replacement airbags to check its official website www.safecar.gov for information on how to reach automaker call centers to find out whether their vehicles could have received counterfeit airbags while being repaired. “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” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an official statement.
According to the NHTSA, this warning only targets vehicles that have had their airbags replaced by outside repair shops that are not officially affiliated with new car dealerships within the last three years. Thankfully no injuries or deaths have been reported as a direct result of the counterfeit airbags, despite the full scale of the problem being unknown at this time. It is estimated that only 0.1 percent of automobiles in the U.S are directly affected by this problem.
To help make the task of identifying affected vehicles easier for consumers, the NHTSA has also released a list of vehicles that have had counterfeit airbags installed. The vehicles on this list include the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Mustang, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima, as well as models from other manufacturers. However, unlike an official recall where the affected component or issue is fixed free of charge, dealer inspections of the airbag system can cost vehicle owners several hundred dollars or more depending on the vehicle involved and should be a key factor to consider before taking your vehicle to a dealership near you for an inspection.