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Government issues stark warning about hazardous counterfeit airbags

Tens of thousands of U.S. vehicles may contain counterfeit airbags, according to a new NHTSA investigation.

The federal government has issued a warning to car owners whose airbags have been replaced in the last three years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, airbags may have been replaced with counterfeit bags. The agency reports that approximately 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicles are affected. Although a seemingly small percentage, the figure translates to tens of thousands of vehicles.

Government testing shows that counterfeit airbags may fail to properly inflate or fail entirely. In one case, a counterfeit bag expelled pieces of metal shrapnel upon impact, said the NHTSA.

Car owners are being instructed to check for more information on the problem. Owners will find automaker call center information, as well as a preliminary list of all makes and models that may contain counterfeit airbags. The full degree of the issue is not currently known and the list is expected to “evolve over time,” according to the NHTSA.

Although the list contains dozens of vehicles, owners should only be concerned if their vehicle has had its airbags replaced over the past three years by a repair shop, rather than a new car dealer. Owners of affected vehicles are advised to visit a dealership for airbag inspection. It generally costs roughly $100 for airbag inspection, but the cost may increase depending on the number of airbags.

The hazardous airbags may be hard to identify since counterfeiters have gone to great lengths to make them appear authentic. Made to look like airbags made by automakers, counterfeit bags usually include a manufacturer’s logo. It is believed that the majority of the phony
Bags came from China.

Officials indicate that the counterfeit bags were sold to auto body shops as legitimate airbags. The issue does not affect auto dealerships, because they buy parts directly from the automaker.

Unfortunately, only 37 percent of auto dealerships have their own body shop, meaning that consumers may have visited body shops unaffiliated with automakers.

Counterfeit airbags have been a major problem for industry officials as of late. In August, a North Carolina auto mechanic was arrested after federal agents found nearly 1,600 counterfeit airbags in his possession. The same mechanic was also tied to another counterfeit bag case last year in Tennessee, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Just last year, a Chinese citizen named Dai Zhensong was sentenced to 37 months in prison for trafficking counterfeit airbags. Zhensong, who was part owner of the international department of Guangzhou Auto Parts, created his bogus airbags by making molds out of authentic airbags that were torn down. Zhensong then sold the airbags for $50 to $70 each, which is well below the cost of genuine airbags.

Here is a list of the affected vehicles:


2009-11 TSX


2006-09 A3, A4, A6, A8, Q5, Q7


2007-11 X5, E70, E60, E61
2008-10 5-series, 528i, 535i
2004-07 5-Series, 525i, 530, 535, E60, E61
2007-11 E90, E91
E92, E93 (unspecified years)
2007-11 X5, E70
2004-07 525i, 530, 535
2011-12 X3


2010-11 Lacrosse


2011-12 Cruze
2006-10 Aveo
2011-12 Volt
2012 Camaro


2012 Focus
2005-09 Mustang


2003-12 Accord
2006-11 Civic
2002-11 CRV
2007-11 Fit
2009-11 Pilot
2009-11 Insight
2009-11 Crosstour
2011 Odyssey


2007-11 Elantra
Genesis (unspecified years)
Sonata (unspecified years)


2007-11 G35, EX35


2010-11 Soul/Forte
2004-09 Spectra

Land Rover

2012 Range Rover Evoque


2006-11IS250, IS350, IS-F
2003-08 GX470
2007-09 RX350
ES350 (unspecified years)


2004 Mazda 3
2010-12 Mazda 3


2009-11 C, GLK
2010-11 E350, E550
2007-08 S550
2006-09 ML
2009-10 GL, ML


Outlander (unspecified years)


1992-2002 Quest
2010-11 Quest
2009-11 Cube
2007-11 Versa
2009-10 Murano
Altima (unspecified years)


2008-09 Forester
2008-09 Impreza
2008-09 Outback
2010-11 Legacy


2007-10 SX4


2002-06 Camry
2012 Camry
2009-1 Corolla, Matrix
2007-11 Yaris
2004-11 Highlander
2004-11 Sienna
2004-11 Tacoma
2010-12 Prius
2003-11 Tundra
2003-06 Sequoia
2003-10 Land Cruiser
2004-10 Highlander
2004-09 4Runner
2007-09 Solara
2005-11 RAV4


2006-10 Jetta


XC60, XC70 (unspecified years)
V70, S60, S80 (unspecified years)