Here is a very important article concerning airbag safety.
Increased scrutiny directed at airbag fraud, improper installations
Compromised airbag repair is a deadly matter
By: Bruce Adams
February 6th, 2009
It’s a potentially deadly problem that remains hidden until the need is greatest – faulty airbags. Your customers may be asking questions about the reliability of these systems as this issue receives more publicity, as it did recently during investigative reports on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition.”A review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of 1,446 fatal accidents from 2001 and 2006 found 255 instances – almost 18 percent – of missing airbags that had not been repaired following a previous wreck. The issues surrounding suspect airbag repairs are twofold. Outright fraud; in which old shop rags, foam, newspaper and the like are shoved into dashboard cavities; and situations where non-complying components are purchased on the cheap over the Internet. Other scenarios bring to mind a dad assembling a bicycle on Christmas morning: Parts are left over or extra pieces added, with unsuspecting drivers being sent on their way by lax repairers or rebuilders.
“You have to replace the airbag when it is deployed in a crash,” says NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson. The agency also discovered cases where seemingly intact airbag systems were incorrectly repaired or motorists had ignored maintenance requirements and recall notices.“Airbag non-deployments are a relatively rare occurrence,” Tyson says. “You have a million cases a year where airbag deployment is successful.”
Others are contending that airbag fraud, the general term applied to both shoddy repairs and willful misconduct, is a serious matter that’s far more common than regulators’ meager “arm’s-length” approach to the compilation of statistics would indicate. They’d like to see Congress hold hearings on the matter and enact a more forceful federal enforcement effort.
The repairers’ outlook
The repairers we spoke with agreed with Hansen that intentional airbag fraud does not happen in mainstream collision repair shops. “Any repairer who is running a legitimate shop won’t put their business and reputation on the line by using a used airbag,” says Rocco Avellini, owner of Wreck Check Car Scan Centers. “All of the big time shops in California I’ve talked to say insurance companies are not forcing the issue to use used airbags. None of them have had guys coming by trying to sell used or illegal airbags.”Avellini, who has been in the collision repair business 40 years and now operates a business that inspects repaired vehicles, said airbag fraud was a bigger problem in the late 1990s, before legislation prohibited installing used airbags in vehicles.
“Back then I was seeing a lot of those cases in Wreck Check inspections,” he says. “Only one or two cases involved fraud from a collision shop. Most of them were rebuilders, who often want to rebuild salvaged cars cheaply. Ninety-nine percent of rebuilders are back yard guys, not professionals. They sell to friends, neighbors and used car lots.”Name brand auto dealers won’t buy used cars that have been tagged with structural damage or frame damage, Avellini said. “Those cars filter down to the local rebuilder, who is not as fearful of the
liability as a major dealer.”Industry veteran Toby Chess agreed with Avellini that rebuilders are the biggest source of fraudulent auto repairs.
“Most sub-standard repair problems are from rebuilders,” says Chess, national director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. “They are buying cars that are total losses and want to fix the car the cheapest way they can and send it on its way. They work under the radar. They are here today and gone tomorrow. They are not held to California Bureau of Automotive Repair license laws.”
As the economy continues to falter, Chess said he fears that repair fraud, not just airbag fraud, could become a bigger issue. “Customers ask shops ‘what can you do to save me my $1,000 deductible?’ A quality shop won’t do it, but the type of shop that bills the insurance company for OEM parts and installs aftermarket parts will.”
Deployed airbags often are the tipping point that causes a vehicle to be declared a total loss instead of repaired. “It could cost $2,500 to $3,000 to buy and install two new airbags, seat belts, a controller and clock spring,” Chess says. That sends more cars into the salvage market and into the hands of rebuilders.Mike Orso, president and chief executive officer of Nick Orso’s Body Shop in Syracuse, N.Y., and president of New York State Auto Collision Technician’s Association (NYSACTA), has not seen any airbag fraud.“We are a Wreck Check shop that’s done hundreds of post-repair vehicle inspections and I’ve not seen any airbag fraud,” Orso says. “New York has been very proactive in not allowing used airbags to be sold, marketed and installed in new vehicles.” epairers in New York are required to write on the repair invoice where airbags were purchased and keep a log of airbags they have bought and installed in vehicles, Orso said.
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