Used-car buyers, beware: Missing or ruined air bags are posing a threat to unsuspecting drivers’ lives, an NPR investigation finds. Some dealerships put greed over safety and sell cars that have been in accidents without replacing the protective pouches. Instead, they may stick faulty air bags back in the car, or jam paper or beer cans in the empty compartment.
Air-bag fraud often means a little extra cash for dealerships, which sometimes charge insurance companies for airbags they don’t replace, or bill customers for bags they promptly return to suppliers unused. “We have a life-and-death scam on our hands,” says a watchdog. But while the practice has killed several drivers, there’s no official tally showing the magnitude of the problem, he adds.