Fake car accessories is one thing, but now it seems there is something sinister afoot: some cars in the U.S. were discovered to have been fitted with counterfeited airbags.

In a report by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), some cars involved in a crash that have been repaired were fitted with counterfeit airbag units. The fake airbag units were found by the NHTSA to look legitimate, appearing nearly identical to the original units; complete with manufacturer's markings and logos.

“Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection.”

Under testing conducted by the agency, the counterfeited airbag units consistently show failures, with malfunctions ranging from non-deployment to “the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment”. Scary stuff, indeed.

The agency says that the problem generally centers vehicles repaired after a crash or bought second hand are the most likely suspects. Customers who bought their vehicle new from the official dealers and/or know the full history of the vehicle should not be at risk. Due to the limited information at the time, the NHTSA suspect that that problem affects 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.

The NHTSA released a list of vehicles with readily available counterfeit airbag units. The list is more extensive than many of us would have thought, including models as common as the 2006-2011 Honda Fit/Jazz, the 2002-2006 and 2012 Toyota Camry, the 2007 Yaris and 2005-2011 RAV4, the 2011-2012 Chevrolet Cruze and even the new Camaro, even to models like the 2012 Range Rover Evoque, a near-complete line of Audis from 2006-2009 and a near-complete line of various BMWs and Mercedes models.

For the full list and report, click here.

Locally speaking

While the NHTSA report covers U.S. cars, with piracy and counterfeit goods considered commonplace including fake auto accessories and “third party”, “replacement” parts, it would not be a stretch of the mind to think that counterfeit airbags could be in circulation in the Philippines.

If your car figured in a crash that deployed the airbags and have been replaced, or perhaps bought it used and don't have the full vehicle history, we advise a visit to an official dealer/service center to verify your airbag units. Better to be safe than sorry.