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Replacement airbags may be counterfeit, 'extreme safety risk'

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 6:14 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Thousands of motorists may be driving cars and trucks installed with dangerous counterfeit airbags and they should have them replaced at their own expense, the Obama administration warned Wednesday.

Most at risk are motorists who have had airbags replaced in the past three years by a repair shop other than a new car dealership, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials said.

Auto industry officials briefed by the agency said they were told that tens of thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with counterfeit airbags.

In government tests last month of 11 counterfeit bags, 10 didn't inflate or failed to inflate properly. In one test, a counterfeit bag shot flames and shards of metal shrapnel at a crash dummy instead of inflating, said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

“It is an extreme safety risk,” he said.

NHTSA is asking car owners to check a government website, http://www.Safercar.gov, for information on how to contact auto manufacturer call centers to learn whether their vehicle is among the 0.1 percent of the nation's car fleet for which counterfeit airbags are known to have been made.

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