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Association frets about NHTSA airbag warning

October 30, 2012

BETHESDA, MD. (Oct. 30, 1:45 p.m. ET) — The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, expressing concern that NHTSA’s recent consumer advisory on counterfeit air bags cast the auto aftermarket as criminals.

The Oct. 10 NHTSA safety alert “unfairly cast the full automotive aftermarket as culprits in the illegal sales of faulty air bags bearing counterfeit OEM logos,” AAIA said in an Oct. 24 letter to the agency.

The vast majority of auto repair shops buy air bags from trusted sources they have purchased from for years, according to AAIA. “However, motorists were led to believe by NHTSA that might be most at risk if they had their vehicle repaired at a non-dealer repair facility,” it said.

The alert covered only a very small number of replacement air bags, but created confusion among vehicle owners as to whether they were at risk, AAIA said.

AAIA asked NHTSA why it believes that faulty air bags can only be replaced or remedied at dealerships; why NHTSA failed to work with the aftermarket industry to coordinate an effective response; and why it took so long for NHTSA to tell the industry and the public about the air bag problem after first discovering it.

In issuing the alert the way it did, NHTSA showed a real lack of understanding of the auto aftermarket, according to AAIA. “AAIA strongly asserts that an better line of communication between us is critical for the independent repair industry, but more importantly for consumers who depend on our industry,” it said.