NHTSA Alerting Consumers to Dangers of Counterfeit Airbags

NHTSA Alerting Consumers to Dangers of Counterfeit Airbags
Image: General Motors

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 airbags.

NHTSA has become aware of a problem involving the sale of counterfeit airbags for use as replacement parts in vehicles that have been involved in a crash.

While these airbags 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 airbag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

While the full scope and scale of the problem of counterfeit airbags is uncertain from currently available data, NHTSA has identified certain vehicle makes and models for which these airbags 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 airbag 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 airbags 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 airbag 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 airbag replaced if necessary.

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 U.S. Department of Justice—to better understand the issue of counterfeit airbags and how to prevent them from being purchased and installed in vehicles.

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 airbags.

Moving forward, the agency will continue to monitor consumer complaints, police accident reports, and other sources for additional information.

Consumers Who Should Not Be At Risk

  • Consumers who purchased their vehicle new and have not had their airbags replaced should have genuine airbags.
  • 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 airbag was replaced at a new car dealership) should not be at risk.

Consumers Who May Be At Risk And Should Contact Their Manufacturer

  • Consumers who have had airbags 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 airbag deployment before their purchase
  • Consumers who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed
  • Consumers who have purchased replacement airbags from eBay or other non-certified sources, especially if they were purchased at unusually low prices (i.e. less than $400)