The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is announcing a warning to motorists who own vehicles that have been involved in collisions, and have had airbags replaced or purchased vehicles that have been collision damaged, that there is a possibility that the air bags in their vehicle may be dangerous when activated.
This applies only to rebuilt airbags installed after January 1998 from two specific Quebec firms and stems from similar action taken in Quebec against these firms, which also sold the airbags in other provinces.
Auto repair firms and parts suppliers have been asked by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to contact clients in Ontario who may have purchased these unsafe, rebuilt air bags, and report their results to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
“The process of notifying affected consumers is already underway,” Transportation Minister Brad Clark said. “To date, we have not received any report of Ontarians suffering injuries stemming from rebuilt air bags. However, we are taking extra steps to ensure consumers get this important information.”
The defective rebuilt air bags have been distributed by National Air Bags Inc. ( National Sacs Gonflables) and Coussins Gonflable Demers Inc., since early 1998. Only those vehicles in which the air bag has been replaced by a rebuilt National air bag are at risk. The defective products would have been installed in vehicles to replace an air bag that was deployed during the last four years. About 1,600 vehicles in Ontario are affected.
Vehicle owners who suspect they may have a defective rebuilt air bag are urged to contact their auto repair shop immediately. Vehicle owners should not attempt to inspect an air bag themselves. If a defective air bag cannot be replaced immediately, it should be temporarily deactivated, and a replacement air bag installed as soon as possible. This should be left to a qualified repair shop. Auto repair shops in Ontario have been asked to provide the ministry with Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) of affected vehicles. The Ministry of Transportation will send follow-up letters to affected vehicle owners. “Follow-up by repair shops with their clients is the first step in the notification process,” Clark said. “This is a unique situation because the company has gone bankrupt. We will monitor the situation and continue to update the public with additional information as it becomes available.”
Ontario’s actions, mirror steps taken in the province of Quebec after the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ), the province’s automobile insurance board successfully obtained an injunction ordering a firm that specialized in rebuilding and selling rebuilt air bags to cease production. The firms were accused of assembling airbags with gunpowder, and other explosive substances as an igniter that “literally exploded” according to the Board’s petition.
Some 1,600 rebuilt air bags were sold to 547 shops and auto parts suppliers in Ontario, based on company records. Although the purchasing shops, the year and model of the vehicle for which the air bag was ordered and the date of the bag purchase are known to the province, Ontario has declined to make that information available, as the province can not guarantee that a rebuilt air bag was actually installed. Also, the information received from SAAQ is not complete and may not list all affected vehicles. A number of purchasing shops and auto parts stores have told Ministry officials that the ordered bags were incorrect or would not fit and returned them.
According to the Collision Industry Action Group, (CIAG), this action has been taken after a poor response from identified shop and auto parts shop owners to a January 25 letter urging them to notify the vehicle owners who had these air bags installed. “Some bags where sold to auto parts suppliers who resold the bags over the counter to their customers. The collision industry has identified that the vast majority of purchasers are believed to be ‘chase’ or ‘backyard’ unlicensed repair facilities who have charged insurance companies for a new original equipment air bag, pocketed the money and installed a cheaper rebuilt air bag. There are reports that some insurance companies urged shops to purchase these bags, in order to reduce repair costs,” said information from the CIAG.
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