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Attention: Benittia Hall
U.S. auto safety officials will warn millions of Americans today that the air bags in over 100 vehicle models could be dangerous counterfeits, telling them to have their cars and trucks inspected as soon as possible. The unfortunate catch: Owners will have to pay -- not just for the inspection, but for the replacement of any counterfeit air bags, which could cost more than $1,000 each.
The unprecedented alert from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration follows a lengthy investigation by auto safety and U.S. customs officials into counterfeit air bags, mostly made in China, sold as cheap replacements for factory equipment to independent mechanics and on eBay. While NHTSA says it has no reports of injuries or deaths linked to a counterfeit device, in its testing the counterfeit bags had "consistent malfunctioning," ranging from not deploying on impact to throwing metal shards.
The warning only covers vehicles which might have had their air bags replaced in the last three years by any mechanic not connected to a dealership; dealers are required to use factory certified air bags. That means not just vehicles crashed, but those whose air bags may have been stolen or used cars and trucks that may have deployed their air bags before they were bought. The advisory also applies to anyone who bought an air bag from eBay or "non-certified sources" for unusually low prices, typically about $400.
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