Counterfeit Airbag Scams: Could You Be at Risk?

If you recently replaced the airbag in your car, this article is directed at you. Federal agencies are warning consumers about a common automotive scam that’s nearly impossible to detect until it’s already too late: missing and counterfeit airbags. If you were injured by a defective car part, you may be entitled to compensation for your car accident injury with an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer.

Fake, Missing Airbags Have Caused Deaths and Serious Injuries

The ongoing Takata controversy has helped bring greater public awareness to airbag safety in the United States. But while drivers have been focused on Takata, they’ve been distracted from another airbag safety issue whose consequences can be just as deadly.

At least one person, 50-year-old nursing assistant Damaris Gatihi, was killed in 2003 after the airbag in her used Toyota Corolla failed to deploy. The reason? There was simply no airbag to deploy.

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Upon examination of Gatihi’s vehicle, investigators realized her Corolla’s original airbag had been removed after an earlier accident – and had never been replaced. Instead of outfitting the Corolla with an operable airbag, the dealer merely placed a fake cover over its dashboard, leaving the space inside empty. This decision saved the dealer money, but cost Damaris Gatihi her life.

Gatihi’s fatal crash in 2003 is not the only recorded account of a missing airbag causing injury or death. That same year, Houston resident Laura Vega was badly injured, and her mother killed, in a head-on collision with Vega’s Mercury Sable. The passenger’s side airbag was simply shoved back inside the dashboard after deploying in a previous accident. The driver’s side, like Gatihi’s Corolla, was missing its airbag altogether.

Unfortunately, data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t seem to indicate any significant improvements to this issue over the past decade. In 2008, the NHTSA released a report stating that in 255 out of 1,446 fatal crashes – about 18% – the vehicle’s airbags had not been replaced after prior accidents, just like the passenger’s side airbag in Vega’s Mercury Sable.

The good news is that, at least in Pennsylvania, harsher penalties may be just over the horizon for perpetrators of airbag scams. In December 2015, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives unanimously approved HB1476, also known as the Counterfeit Airbag Prevention Act, which would formally criminalize the creation, sales, distribution, installation, and/or reinstallation of counterfeit airbags, as well as tampering with indicator lights, as a car accident lawyer in Philadelphia, PA can explain.

Which Car Models Are Vulnerable to Counterfeit Airbag Installation?

In 2010, the NHTSA issued a safety advisory estimating that as many as 0.1% of America’s vehicles could be affected by airbag scams – a number that sounds small, until you realize that there are about 255 million registered vehicles in the United States. If the NHTSA’s estimate is accurate, that means about 255,000 cars could be at risk.

The NHTSA recently released the following list of cars with known susceptibilities to counterfeit airbags. The list below is current as of December 2015, but may be expanded at any time. Be sure to periodically check back with the NHTSA’s safety website, SaferCar, for updates.


  • 2009-2011 TSX


  • 2006-2009 A3, A4, A6, A8, Q5, Q7


  • 2004-2007 – 5-Series, 525i, 530, 535, E60, E61
  • 2007-2011 – E60, E61, E70, E90, E91, X5
  • 2008-2010 – 5-Series, 528i, 535i
  • 2011-2012 – X3


  • 2010-2011 – Lacrosse


  • 2006-2010 – Aveo
  • 2011-2012 – Cruze, Volt
  • 2012 – Camaro


  • 2005-2009 – Mustang
  • 2012 – Focus


  • 2002-2011 – CRV
  • 2003-2012 – Accord
  • 2006-2011 – Civic
  • 2007-2011 – Fit
  • 2009-2011 – Crosstour, Insight, Pilot
  • 2011 – Odyssey


  • 2007-2011 – Elantra


  • 2007-2011 – EX35, G35


  • 2004-2009 – Spectra
  • 2010-2011 – Forte, Soul

Land Rover

  • 2012 – Range Rover Evoque


  • 2003-2008 – GX470
  • 2006-2011 – IS250, IS350, IS-F
  • 2007-2009 – RX350


  • 2004, 2010-2012 – Mazda 3


  • 2006-2009 – ML
  • 2007-2008 – S550
  • 2009-2010 – GL, ML
  • 2009-2011 – C, GLK
  • 2010-2011 – E350, E550


  • 1992-2002, 2010-2011 – Quest
  • 2007-2011 – Versa
  • 2009-2010 – Murano
  • 2009-2011 – Cube


  • 2008-2009 – Forester, Impreza, Outback
  • 2010-2011 – Legacy


  • 2007-2010 – SX4


  • 2002-2006, 2012 – Camry
  • 2003-2006 – Sequoia, Tundra
  • 2003-2010 – Land Cruiser
  • 2004-2009 – 4Runner
  • 2004-2011 – Highlander, Sienna, Tacoma
  • 2005-2011 – RAV4
  • 2007-2009 – Solara
  • 2007-2011 – Tundra, Yaris
  • 2009-2011 – Corolla, Matrix
  • 2010-2012 – Prius


  • 2006-2010 – Jetta

Vehicles with unspecified model years included the:

Hyundai Genesis
Hyundai Sonata
Lexus ES350
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Altima
Volvo S60
Volvo S80
Volvo V70
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC70

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If you were injured by a defective airbag or other defective car parts, it may be possible to recover compensation for your pain, suffering, medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and other costs and hardships. To start talking about your legal options in a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call Philadelphia car accident attorney Brent Wieand at (888) 789-3161 today.

***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice. Brent’s law office is located in Philadelphia, PA, and serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.***

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