• Oct 10th 2012 at 11:15AM
  • 30
WASHINGTON (AP) - Car owners whose air bags have been replaced in the past three years may have had dangerous counterfeit bags installed, the Obama administration warned Wednesday.

Only 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet is believed to be affected, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement. But industry officials briefed by the government said tens of thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with counterfeit air bags. 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.

NHTSA is asking car owners to check a government website, www.Safercar.gov, for information on how to contact a call center established by auto manufacturers to learn if their vehicle model is among those for which counterfeit air bags are known to have been made.

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."

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.

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.

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.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      With all the regulation, the government wouldn't know what was fake and what was real.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The answer consists of two parts, we agree to buy Amercian manufactured products made with Amercian produced materials and Amercian manufacturers,wholesellers and retailers agree to a reasonable profit. I read that, I believe it was Cosco operates on a 15.5 % margin and do quite well. On the other hand for example clothing manufacturers have a 100 to 300% markup.
      • 2 Years Ago
      President Obama and bill said this is a world market. so get over it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ah yes, once more the INSURANCE adjuster with the L K Q bit bites you in the ass....
      • 2 Years Ago
      Notice how the gov'r'mint "discovers" on all these competitors' cars? Hmmmmm.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is what you get for always being so cheap Americans. You want to save money on airbags but wont hesitate to buy the latest smartphone for full price the minute it comes out. Yeah that makes sense to me...........
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hmmmm! Replacement airbag U.S. $900 per airbag. Chinese airbag $99 made to U.S. spec. real or fake. Airbag with metal shrap metal, please.. Does any one beleive the stories the Government puts out. Where is the liberal media when you need them to spin a story for Obama Motors.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Air bags mad ein China? I never see them at walmart
      • 2 Years Ago
      So.....just how many times can you run the same story with a different headline?
      • 2 Years Ago
      talking about cars, what is with the lack of a spare tire in many of the new cars, they give you a can of air, that will only plug for a small time a very small leak, plus you can not drive more than 50 miles on it and it ruins your tire. Talk about a major safety hazard and using the can of chemicals to plug the leak and in most cases you need more air. Where are the federal safety people on this one or are they just waiting for the law suites to roll in.
        • 2 Years Ago
        It is for fuel economy. I was looking at a new car last year and asked about a spare. I was told that no spare was standard because of fuel economy issues. Less weight, better fuel mileage. I told them "no thank you then, because you can't patch a side wall puncture and i have personally had that happen on a trip". I was then stopped by the salesman who eagerly said "You can purchase it as an option though!"...I simply told him that "Safety is never an option. The spare should always be standard". I left.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Air Bags are just the tip of the iceberg of these cheap, foreign made knockoff parts. I've been in the parts business for 40 years, so I see it all. Imported brake rotors and drums are made from a very low grade steel that is soft and wears out very quickly. About a month ago, I did a brake job on the rear of my Chevy pickup. Took me 2 days to find American made brake shoes. I took the drums to Discount Auto Parts to have them turned, and they informed me that they no longer turn rotors and drums because they can sell me new ones cheaper. I asked where these "new" ones were made? You know the answer, China. No thanks, I I wanted foreign junk, I would have bought a junk foreign made car. I've heard body men complain for years about the lousy fit on aftermarket body parts, and how hard it is for them to make a job acceptable because of it. If you want nice fresh, clean oats, that's one price. If you can be happy with oats that have already been through the horse, that's cheaper. You get what you pay for.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X