Arizona Attorney General

Mark Brnovich



Horne Consumer Alert: Phony Car Airbags May Cause Death

PHOENIX (Friday, March 1, 2013) -- Automobile airbags undoubtedly save lives, but Attorney General Tom Horne is warning consumers that potentially dangerous and unreliable after-market airbags are being sold to individuals and businesses in Arizona.  

“Phony airbags are a real problem because they often fail to work and pose a threat to human lives,” Horne said.  “It is important that consumers buy the appropriate equipment and be on the lookout for counterfeits.”

U.S. Attorneys in several states have prosecuted individuals who bought and resold replacement airbags imported from China.  Their tests show that the bags are dangerous, both because they do not inflate during an accident, and because in some cases they actually exploded upon impact. 

In one case, prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for North Carolina, a man pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit airbags, which he shipped to 8100 customers across the country.  Some of those customers are located in Arizona. Most of the airbags were sold over E-bay to independent repair shops that may have used them as replacement airbags in consumers’ vehicles. 

Consumers that should not be at risk:

  • Consumers who purchased their vehicle new and have not had their air bags replaced.
  • Consumers who have full knowledge of the entire history of their used vehicle (including knowing whether the vehicle had been in a crash in the last three years and being certain that the air bag was replaced at a new car dealership).

Consumers that may be at risk and should contact the call center established by their automaker:

  • Consumers who have had air bags replaced within the past three years at a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership.
  • Consumers who have purchased a used car that may have sustained an air bag deployment before their purchase.
  • Consumers who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed.
  • Consumers who have purchased replacement air bags from eBay or other non-certified sources—especially if they were purchased at unusually low prices (i.e. less than $400).

Consumers whose vehicles have been in a crash and had their air bags replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership within the past three years or who have purchased a replacement air bag online should contact their auto manufacturer’s call center to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense and their air bag replaced if necessary. The full list of call centers and additional information are available at, a website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).