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Counterfeit Airbags Turning Cars Into Lethal Weapons


In a tragic irony, airbags designed to save lives are under scrutiny. This is due to recent injuries and deaths linked to counterfeit versions. Unlike the Takata scandal, these concerns involve fake airbags sold to unsuspecting customers. The most alarming aspect is their concealment; they appear identical to genuine ones, making detection difficult, especially for previous owners and installers unaware of their authenticity.

A Wall Street Journal report highlighted five cases of severe injuries or fatalities caused by fake airbags in the past year. The Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council, including major car manufacturers like General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen, fears more fake airbags are in circulation. The primary lure of counterfeit airbags is their cost, significantly cheaper than authentic ones, despite their dangerous assembly. Some counterfeit parts originate from China, while others are assembled in the US, using salvaged junkyard components.

Counterfeit airbags pose a risk to independent workshops and car dealers alike. Manufacturers are urging vigilance even during recall campaigns. Despite arrests and seizures, tracking down all counterfeit airbags remains challenging due to their small packaging and the sophisticated replication of genuine parts. eBay has become a notable source for these fake products, though it claims to regulate sellers. Other platforms like Amazon and Alibaba have policies banning airbag sales.

A lawsuit highlights the danger: a fake airbag in a Chevrolet Malibu killed a mother of two when it exploded during a minor collision. The airbag, traced back to an unauthorized Chinese manufacturer, was replaced in 2022 by a Florida repair shop. The involved parties, including Enterprise Rent-a-Car and DriveTime, deny prior knowledge of the fake airbag.

As counterfeit airbags turn cars into lethal weapons, heightened awareness and stringent regulations are essential to safeguard unsuspecting drivers.
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