U.S. Government warns ‘tens of thousands of car owners’ could be affected by counterfeit airbags from China that either fail to deploy, or explode with metal shrapnel

Read Time:4 Minute, 18 Second

  • Feds  downplay number of vehicles affected, while reports says number is much  higher
  • Dozens of  vehicle makes and models on list of cars with counterfeit air  bags

By John Clarke

PUBLISHED:15:48 EST, 10  October 2012| UPDATED:17:37 EST, 10 October 2012

Federal safety regulators warned car owners  Wednesday that they may be driving with dangerous counterfeit airbags if they  have been replaced in the past  three years.

The fake bags, which investigators have  traced to China, might not deploy in an accident or could explode, sending metal  shrapnel into the vehicle’s passenger cabin.

Only 0.1 percent of vehicles in the U.S. are  believed to be affected, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said  in a statement.

However, according to one report, industry officials briefed by the  government said tens of thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with  counterfeit air bags.

 David Strickland

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland gestures during a  news conference at the Transportation Department in Washington

NHTSA testing has shown most of the  counterfeit bags don’t inflate or fail to inflate properly.

In at least  one case, a counterfeit bag  fired shards of metal shrapnel on impact,  the agency said.

No  deaths or injuries have been tied to the  counterfeit bags, NHTSA said.  But it’s unclear whether police accident  investigators would be able to  identify a counterfeit bag from a genuine one,  industry officials said.

NHTSA has compiled a list of dozens of  vehicle makes and models for which  counterfeit air bags may be available, but  the agency cautioned that the full scope of the problem isn’t clear yet and the  list is expected to  “evolve over time.”


The U.S. Government is warning motorists of dangerous  counterfeit airbags

If a car is on the list and has had its air  bags replaced during the past three years by a repair shop other than a new car  dealership, NHTSA is asking owners to bring the vehicle into a dealership to be  inspected at their own expense to determine whether the replaced air bags are  counterfeit.

Fees for checking out air bags could run $100  or more, industry officials said. Some types of cars have as many as eight air  bags.

The counterfeit bags typically have been made  to look like air bags made by automakers and usually include a manufacturer’s  logo. Government investigators believe many of the bags come from China, an  industry official said.
The bags are marketed to auto body shops as the  real deal, industry officials said. Auto dealerships that operate their own body  shops are usually required by their franchise agreements to buy their parts,  including air bags, directly from automakers and therefore are unlikely to have  installed counterfeit bags, industry officials said.
But only 37 percent  of auto dealers have their own body shops, according to information on the  National Association of Automobile Dealers’ website. Many consumers whose  vehicles have been damaged are referred by their insurance companies to auto  body shops that aren’t affiliated with an automaker.

John Morton

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John  Morton speaks to reporters about the counterfeit airbags and what federal  officials are doing to address the issue

Consumers who bought replacement air bags  online or who have purchased a used car that may have its airbags replaced in  the past three years were also asked to check NHTSA’s list.

Counterfeiting of a wide variety of auto  parts has long been a well-known problem, industry officials said. But recent  incidents have escalated concern by government officials.

In August, federal agents confiscated nearly  1,600 counterfeit air bags and arrested a North Carolina auto mechanic,  according to a report by The Charlotte Observer.

The mechanic was tied by federal officials to  another counterfeit air bag case last year in Tennessee, the report  said.

Morton and Strickland

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John  Morton, right, accompanied by NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, speak during  a news conference at the Transportation Department in Washington

Last February, Dai Zhensong, a Chinese  citizen, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court in Chattanooga,  Tenn., to 37 months in prison for trafficking in counterfeit air bags, according  to a statement made at the time by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Zhensong  was a part owner and manager of the international department of Guangzhou Auto  Parts, which made a variety of auto parts, many of which were counterfeit, the  statement said.

In 2010, he traveled from China to  Chattanooga to sell additional counterfeit air bags and other auto parts. The  counterfeit air bags were manufactured by purchasing genuine auto air bags that  were torn down and used to make molds to produce the counterfeit  bags.

Trademark emblems were purchased through  Honda, Toyota, Audi, BMW and other dealerships located in China and affixed to  the counterfeit air bags.

The air bags were advertised on the Guangzhou  Auto Parts website and sold for approximately $50 to $70 each, far below the  value of an authentic air bag, the statement said.

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2 thoughts on “U.S. Government warns ‘tens of thousands of car owners’ could be affected by counterfeit airbags from China that either fail to deploy, or explode with metal shrapnel

  1. As an auto technician I have to say this sounds seriously like an Industry cock-up by upper level management who were price shopping without a quality control program as their guidelines if it is in fact true. I would think this is more along the lines of a China bashing program where nobody in the industry is prepared to accept “full responsibility”for their mistakes.Man up you guys & stop looking for someone else to blame when the buck stops with you. Rgds Arth.

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