Counterfeit airbags: Government to warn tens of thousands of drivers

WASHINGTON - The government is preparing to warn the public that tens of thousands of car owners may have counterfeit airbags. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alerted the industry Tuesday. NHTSA testing shows that some counterfeit bags don't inflate properly, if at all. 

In at least one case, a counterfeit bag fired shards of plastic and other projectiles on impact, the agency said.

People who have had their air bags replaced in the past three years by a repair shop other than a new car dealership could be at risk. 

Auto dealership body shops are usually required to buy parts directly from automakers and, therefore, unlikely to have counterfeit bags.

The NHTSA said the fake bags were marketed to auto body shops as the real deal. 

These bags look real and have manufacturer logos on them. 

Officials said it's unclear whether police or accident investigators would be able to tell the difference between a counterfeit air bag and a genuine one.

If you think you have a counterfeit bag, call the manufacturer or visit a dealership. It could cost $100 or more to check air bags. Right now, it's not clear who would pay for the cost. 

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Consumers may also want to call a manufacturer or dealership to find out if their particular car is among those for which counterfeit bags were made. 

A list is posted on safercar.gov .

RECENT INCIDENTS ESCALATE CONCERNS

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.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, authorities arrested an owner of Guangzhou Auto Parts in Tennessee last February for trafficking counterfeit airbags.

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