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Counterfeit airbags concern prompts NHTSA consumer alert

Vehicles which have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop not part of a new car dealership may be at risk, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The consumer safety agency become aware of the problem after the sale of counterfeit air bags that look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts—including bearing the insignia and branding of major automakers.

Testing by the NHTSA 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.

“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.”

The counterfeit issue affects the vehicles of more than 20 manufacturers.

The full list of call centers and additional information are available at www.SaferCar.gov.

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