The U.S. safety regulator issued a warning on Wednesday to consumers with repaired vehicles that they may have air bags that don’t inflate in an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said testing had revealed the problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles involved in crashes.
It said, however, that only vehicles, which may have had an air bag replaced in the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership, may be at risk.
The safety agency said it was not aware of any deaths or injuries related to the counterfeit airbags – which also could expel metal shrapnel during deployment.
NHTSA said the full scope of the problem is uncertain, but it believes the 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,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “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.”
The counterfeit air bags look nearly identical to certified parts, and bear the insignia and branding of major automakers, NHTSA said.
The agency said consumers who may have affected cars and trucks should contact call centers established by automakers to have their vehicle inspected and air bags replaced if necessary, at their own expense. The list of call centers and additional information is available at www.safercar.gov .
NHTSA said it was working with several other federal 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 and how to prevent counterfeit air bags from being purchased and installed.
“Organized criminals are selling dangerous counterfeit and substandard airbags to consumers and suppliers with little to no regard to hazardous health and safety consequences,” ICE Director John Morton said. “We will continue to aggressively investigate criminal supply chains … and bring these criminals to justice.”