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AAIA to NHTSA: Airbag warning smears repair shops

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BETHESDA, Md.—The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), expressing concern that the agency's recent consumer advisory on counterfeit air-bags cast the automotive aftermarket as criminals.

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

The vast majority of auto repair shops buy airbags from trusted sources they have purchased from for years, according to the trade group.

“However, motorists were led to believe by NHTSA that they might be most at risk if they had their vehicle repaired at a non-dealer repair facility,” the association said.

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

The AAIA asked NHTSA why it believes that faulty airbags 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 airbag 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 the AAIA.

“AAIA strongly asserts that a 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.

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