US safety regulators warn about counterfeit airbags

Oct 10 (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulator on Wednesday issued a warning to consumers with repaired vehicles that they may have air bags that don't inflate in an accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said testing revealed the problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles involved in crashes. It said only vehicles that may have had an air bag replaced in the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at risk.

The safety agency said it was not aware of any deaths or injuries related to the counterfeit airbags - which also could expel metal shrapnel during deployment.

NHTSA said the full scope of the problem is uncertain, but it believes the issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.

"Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection."

(Reporting By Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)