Imagine you’re driving home after a pleasant dinner with friends one night. An oncoming vehicle veers and slams into your car. Glass flies and metal buckles in that terrifying split second, but your airbag doesn’t open.
Zhensong flooded the U.S. market with tens of thousands of counterfeit bags made at his plant in China. A suspected cohort named Igor Borodin allegedly sold 7,000 of the knockoffs. All told, some 250,000 bags could be out there, either installed or waiting to be installed, the feds say. Zhensong has 37 months in federal prison to rethink his career choice.
How big is airbag fraud nationally? That’s anybody’s guess; nobody keeps total stats. And most body shops are honest, but some knowingly install worthless airbags after the valid original bags deploy during a crash. Buy a $50 knockoff from the internet or a shady street dealer, and charge the insurer several hundred dollars.
Body shops also shove beer cans, packing peanuts, old sneakers and other junk into the airbag compartment. Or they just leave the compartment empty.
Sometimes a body shop will even pull out an airbag that hasn’t deployed, then lie to the insurance adjuster that the bag had opened during the accident.
Used and salvaged vehicles are especially vulnerable to these scams, but so is your new car if it crashes. So let’s return to Zhensong. Alarmed carmakers have set up call centers that drivers like you can contact to see if you...