Estimates show more than 600,000 cars in NC with defective airbags

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s been years since the airbag recalls were first announced, but there are still millions of cars on the road that need defective airbags replaced.

An airbag is a primary life-saving device. In North Carolina, it’s estimated there are more than 600,000 cars on the roads with defective airbags.

The defective airbags were made by Takata for various automakers.

The problem is they could blast fragments of metal shrapnel upon deployment. Millions of recall notices have been issued.

“Regardless of the age of your vehicle, you want to make sure you have an airbag that is working. It’ll save your life. That’s what it’s designed to do,” said Pablo Figueroa who is the fixed operations director at Capital Chevrolet.

One website said 80,000 airbags remain unrepaired in the Raleigh area alone. Figueroa said the auto repair shop at Capital Chevrolet can do an airbag repair quickly. 

While many repairs take all day, he said an airbag replacement usually takes under an hour.

“We order the part, (and) once it comes in, we schedule the repair. It’s about 45 minutes to an hour and then they are on their way,” he said.  

And that dealership is trying to be proactive in making sure those repairs get done.

“General Motors provided us with a list of customers and a geographic area,” he said. “We have a call center which calls those customers to get them scheduled in.”

Right now, there are fewer than 100 airbag replacements outstanding for that dealership. 

“We have 83 customers we’ve contacted waiting for them to contact us,’’ he said. He said one of the problems they’ve encountered is that some customers don’t have the vehicles anymore.

Anyone who is buying a previously owned vehicle or wants to know if the car’s airbag is faulty can check it online.

Also, dealers like Capital Chevrolet will keep checking with owners.

‘’Our call center documents every call that’s made,” Figueroa said. “Then they go back and follow up if they don’t hear from the consumer.

Some automakers are still having trouble getting replacement airbag parts. As a result, counterfeit or fake airbags are a problem.

That problem got so bad that Gov. Roy Cooper recently signed a bill making it illegal to sell or install a counterfeit airbag. The law calls for 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine for anyone convicted of doing selling or installing a fake airbag.

But, if the counterfeit airbag installation results in a person’s injury or death, it becomes a class H felony resulting in up to two years in jail upon conviction.

Experts like Figueroa said to not trust life with those fakes.

“They’re not federally regulated or tested,” he said. “You don’t know how it’s going to perform.”

With millions of cars still needing new airbags, it’s up to people to check and work with a dealer to get it repaired. Click here for more answers about makes and models under recall.

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