Fake Airbags Pose Deadly Threat to Drivers and Passengers

Knockoff Airbags (Chevrolet)

The tragic fate of Destiny Byassee, a 22-year-old mother of two, has shed light on a sinister plot infiltrating the automotive industry. Her Chevrolet Malibu’s counterfeit airbag exploded like a grenade, fatally slicing her neck.

Unbeknownst to her or previous owners, the bogus device was installed by a repair shop, highlighting a deadly trend. At least five fatalities or severe injuries have occurred in the past year due to counterfeit airbags, with many more potentially going unreported.

Her Chevrolet Malibu’s counterfeit airbag (Chevrolet)

Criminals are outsmarting authorities by shipping pirated parts individually, assembling them in the US, and selling them at remarkably lower prices. The Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council and federal regulators are fighting back, but the problem persists. Carmakers are warning dealers to be vigilant, as knockoffs bear logos and markings almost identical to legitimate brands.

The issue has revived concerns about counterfeit airbags entering the US illegally, making their way into vehicles, often as replacement parts installed during post-crash repairs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing comments on a potential recall order for potentially dangerous air-bag inflators. Automakers worry that a massive recall could result in anxious drivers and repair shops unwittingly receiving phony modules.

The allure for counterfeiters is outstanding, as airbags are a highly commoditized product, and the necessary components are easy to copy, leading to a substantial profit.

The industry made progress last decade clamping down on imitations, but the pandemic complicated those efforts. The surge in online shopping gave counterfeiters a wider customer base.

Byassee’s case exposes the complexity of the issue. Her Malibu had previously been owned by Enterprise and sold to DriveTime before a repair shop in Hollywood, Florida, installed the counterfeit airbag.

Jilin Province Detiannuo Safety Technology, a China-based outfit, supplied the fake parts, highlighting the global scope of the problem. As authorities struggle to keep pace with counterfeiters, the public is left vulnerable to deadly imitations.