Organized crime rings are selling substandard, counterfeit airbags to repair shops, federal traffic safety officials have warned.
The counterfeit airbags look like certified, original equipment parts, complete with the insignia and branding of major automakers, but they don't deploy properly.
In recent tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration some of the bags didn't deploy and others expelled metal shrapnel.
Federal officials estimate the problem affects less than 0.1 percent of vehicles nationwide. No deaths or injuries have been attributed to counterfeit airbags. Only vehicles that have had an airbag replaced within the last three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new dealership may be at risk.
Automakers have established call centers for consumers who think their vehicles could have counterfeit airbags. A list of makes and models for which counterfeit bags might be available as well as contact information for automaker call centers are available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.
After contacting the automaker call center, a consumer who suspects the airbag is faulty should have the vehicle inspected and, if necessary, have the airbag replaced.
Federal traffic safety officials are gathering information from automakers about their systems for verifying the authenticity of replacement parts. They also are working with immigration, customs and law enforcement agencies to get a better handle on the issue and prevent the sale of counterfeit airbags.
"We will continue to aggressively investigate criminal supply chains with our law enforcement and private industry partners and bring these criminals to justice," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a press statement.