Air Bags: NADA Issues Dealer Guidance on Counterfeit Air Bags

WASHINGTON (Oct. 10, 2012) -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today a consumer advisory on counterfeit air bags.

Federal investigators have determined that thousands of counterfeit bags have been bought and installed in U.S. motor vehicles over the past three years.

NHTSA also has determined that in the event of a frontal collision, these counterfeit bags are unlikely to deploy properly or may deploy in a manner that can harm vehicle occupants. See below for an NADA dealer Q&A document. Tips for consumers are available here.

Vehicles with counterfeit air bags installed are believed to constitute less than 0.1% of the total in-use fleet. Nonetheless, dealers should be prepared to respond to inquiries from the public on this matter.

NHTSA is urging concerned owners to start by visiting this web page to determine if they are at risk.

In addition to the NADA guidance, dealers should expect to receive communications directly from the auto manufacturers they represent, addressing how to detect and manage counterfeit air bags.

It's important to note that unlike a safety recall campaign, customers should expect to pay to have their air bags diagnosed, and if necessary, replaced.

Questions on this matter may be directed to NADA Regulatory Affairs at regulatoryaffairs@nada.org or (703) 821-7040.

 

NADA Guidance for Responding to Counterfeit Air Bag Questions

What is the problem with counterfeit air bags?

Upwards of thousands of counterfeit air bags may have been installed in U.S. vehicles in the last three years.  These primarily are driver’s side front modules. This number involves less than .1% of the vehicle fleet.  But, in the event of a collision, counterfeit bags may not perform as expected.  In some instances they will fail to deploy, in other instances their deployment may harm vehicle occupants. 

Which vehicles now on the road have counterfeit air bags installed in them?

This is not an easy question to answer.  There exists no single VIN-based list of vehicles that have had air bags replaced, let alone one indicating if genuine replacement parts were used.  Attached below is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) list of vehicles of greatest concern.  Counterfeit bags typically appear very much like genuine OEM parts and rarely trigger a trouble light or diagnostic code and are hard to detect without a full physical inspection. Again, only air bags that have been replaced in the last three years are of concern.  Consider the following:

1. Single owner vehicles where no air bag has ever been replaced are not a concern.  Vehicle air bags replaced with genuine OEM replacement parts at a franchised dealership service department or body shop also are not a concern.

2. Single owner vehicles where an air bag was replaced at an independent repair facility could have a counterfeit air bag.  The repair facility, insurance company (if one was involved), vehicle OEM, and/or air bag supplier may be able to help determine if an installed part is a genuine OEM replacement.  Vehicle owners also may know whether a genuine OEM replacement part was not used, whether a replacement bag was bought from an internet sales or on-line auction company, or whether they paid “below market” price, indicators that a bag could be counterfeit.  

3. The air bag replacement history of vehicles purchased used can be hard to determine. A commercial vehicle history report may indicate if a vehicle was involved in a crash involving an air bag deployment, however such reports cannot be fully relied upon and typically do not show if a non-crash air bag replacement has occurred.  It is also possible for installed air bags to exhibit certain outward physical signs suggesting that the module may be counterfeit. For further information on such indicators, see NHTSA’s Guidance on Managing Counterfeit Bags.

4. Vehicles with salvage, rebuild or reconstructed histories are suspect and should be closely examined for signs of a counterfeit air bag.

How should I respond to inquiries regarding potential counterfeit bag installations?

Direct them to NHTSA’s consumer website www.safercar.gov/Air+Bags to obtain the primary point-of-contact for the vehicle make and model.  This likely will be a phone number for the appropriate OEM call center.  They should have their VIN readily available along with as much information as possible regarding known or suspected air bag replacements.  OEM call centers will help to determine whether genuine OEM replacement part(s) were used.  If uncertain, they likely will suggest that a physical inspection of the suspected counterfeit air bag(s) be performed at a dealership service or body department.

What if a vehicle comes in for an air bag inspection?

Service advisors should be instructed to inform customers of the diagnostic charges involved.  Carefully follow any OEM instructions on how to determine if an air bag is counterfeit.  These instructions will involve an outward inspection, possible diagnosis of the passive occupant restraint system, and/or the removal and inspection of the module in question.  If a counterfeit air bag is discovered, inform the customer of the cost to replace it with a genuine part and how long it will take to obtain and install it. 

What if a customer refuses to have his vehicle restored with a genuine OEM part?

Instruct the customer that you cannot put the counterfeit part back into the vehicle or give them the part.  Have them sign an acknowledgement indicating that they are refusing to pay to have the vehicle restored and that they recognize that the vehicle will not offer them the same protection as if it were restored.  Do not attempt to hide the fact that the vehicle is missing an operational air bag (e.g., putting on a false cover and turning off the trouble light).

How can I help protect myself against liability for working on vehicles with counterfeit bags?

Contact your dealership attorney to draft a document designed to serve as a notice, hold harmless, and indemnification in the advent of a subsequent problem involving a vehicle where a counterfeit air bag is removed and the customer refuses to pay to have it restored.  Note too that dealerships are under no legal obligation to conduct either the diagnostic or repair work described above.

Are there any special precautions technicians should take when handling counterfeit air bags?

In addition to the normal precautions that should be followed when handling air bags, NHTSA strongly advises technicians not to electrically probe counterfeit air bag connecting terminals because of the risk of detonation and possible serious injury.  NHTSA and the OEMs are expected to provide specific guidance on air bag handling and disposal procedures. In addition, NHTSA may request that they be notified if and when a counterfeit air bag is discovered.

What steps, if any, should be taken with respect to the purchasing and reselling of used vehicles? 

Federal law does not regulate the purchase or resale of used vehicles that may have had counterfeit replacement air bags previously installed.  For advice on whether and to what extent obligations exist under state law, please consult your dealership attorney. 

How can we help stop the use of counterfeit, stolen, salvaged, or rebuilt air bags?

Always urge your customers to demand genuine replacement parts for vehicle service and repair, especially where safety is involved.

Vehicles for which Counterfeit Air Bags
May Be Available

(Source: NHTSA)

Make

Model Year(s)

  Model(s)

Acura

2009-2011

  TSX

Audi

2006-2009

  A3, A4, A6, A8, Q5, Q7

BMW

2007-2011

  X5, E70, E60, E61

2008-2010

  5-series, 528i, 535i

2004-2007

  5-Series, 525i, 530, 535, E60, E61

2007-2011

  E90, E91

   Not listed

  E92, E93

2007-2011

  X5, E70

2004-2007

  525i, 530, 535

2011-2012

  X3

Buick

2010-2011

  Lacrosse

Chevrolet

2011-2012

  Cruze

2006-2010

  Aveo

2011-2012

  Volt

2012

  Camaro

Ford

2012

  Focus

2005-2009

  Mustang

Honda

2003-2012

  Accord

2006-2011

  Civic

2002-2011

  CRV

2007-2011

  Fit

2009-2011

  Pilot

2009-2011

  Insight

2009-2011

  Crosstour

2011

  Odyssey

Hyundai

2007-2011

  Elantra

Not listed

  Genesis

Not listed

  Sonata

Infiniti

2007-2011

  G35, EX35

Kia

2010-2011

  Soul/Forte 

2004-2009

  Spectra

Land Rover

2012

  Range Rover Evoque

Lexus

2006-2011

  IS250, IS350, IS-F

2003-2008

  GX470

2007-2009

  RX350

Not listed

  ES350

Mazda

2004

  Mazda 3

2010-2012

  Mazda 3

Mercedes

2009-2011

  C, GLK

2010-2011

  E350, E550

2007-2008

  S550

2006-2009

  ML

2009-2010

  GL, ML

Mitsubishi

Not listed

  Outlander

Nissan

1992-2002

  Quest

2010-2011

  Quest

2009-2011

  Cube

2007-2011

  Versa

2009-2010

  Murano

Not listed

  Altima

Subaru

2008-2009

  Forester

 

2008-2009

  Imprezza

 

2008-2009

  Outback

 

2010-2011

  Legacy

Suzuki

2007-2010

  SX4

Toyota

2002-2006

  Camry

2012

  Camry

2009-2011

  Corolla, Matrix

2007-2011

  Yaris

2004-2011

  Highlander

2004-2011

  Sienna

2004-2011

  Tacoma

2010-2012

  Prius

2003-2006

  Tundra

2007-2011

  Tundra

2003-2006

  Sequoia

2003-2010

  Land Cruiser

2004-2007

  Highlander

2008-2010

  Highlander

2004-2009

  4Runner

2007-2009

  Solara

2005-2011

  RAV4

Volkswagen

2006-2010

  Jetta

Volvo

Not listed

  XC60, XC70

Not listed

  V70, S60, S80