DOT warns of counterfeit air bags in cars

“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,” LaHood continued.

NHTSA said the counterfeit air bag failed to deploy at all in some tests and expelled piece of metal in others.

NHTSA Administration David Strickland said the failures were unacceptable because replacement auto parts were supposed to live up to the safety standards of their original pieces.

“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,” Strickland said. “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 Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said Wednesday it supported the DOT's warning to drivers about counterfeit parts.

“If you bought your car or light truck new and the airbags have never been replaced or were replaced under warranty using original equipment manufacturer [OEM] parts, there is no issue," the automakers said in a statement.  
“For everyone else, if you have some question or concern whether your air bags may be counterfeit, you are advised to contact your dealer, repair shop or insurance company directly to find out if genuine OEM parts were used in your vehicle's repair," the Auto Alliance continued. "If you purchased a used vehicle, a commercial website such as Carfax may be able to identify if your vehicle has been in an accident."

The automakers said the Obama administration's announcement about counterfeit air bags in cars "highlights a growing problem."

"The proliferation of counterfeit auto replacement parts is a global concern because the lower quality of many copy-cat products poses potentially serious safety implications for drivers and occupants," the automakers said. "Unfortunately, most consumers never see the parts going into their vehicles or know whether they are genuine OEM replacement parts. Many independent repair shops may have thought they were buying quality OEM parts but instead received fake or rebuilt parts instead. Counterfeiting thrives when it is difficult to spot a fake.”