Although multiple experts from Kia as well as the Loughran family inspected the vehicle, no one realized the airbag was counterfeit.
“They fooled a bunch of engineers and a lawyer who has been doing this for 30 years,” Tracy said. “This was a time bomb waiting to go off. It just needed an unsuspecting victim, and unfortunately, that was Sarah.”
Tracy’s team has not previously encountered a counterfeit airbag, but said, almost always the team finds answers during engineering analysis.
“Our engineers follow a certain protocol and 99.9 percent of the time, we find out what happened,” Tracy said. “Now I wonder how many counterfeit airbags we missed and chalked up due to bad luck.”
Tracy said now is the time that the industry should address this issue. We get to the foundation of the problem by figuring out who is causing it.
“The only way a consumer can protect themselves is to ask for an independent examination—from a reputable source—to check the DTCs,” he said.
Creating counterfeit airbags is a serious offense in most states. Most often, it is considered a felony, since you’re installing something that results in someone’s death, Tracy said.
“This is an intentional act—no different than shooting someone with a gun,” Tracy said. “You are destroying that vehicle’s ability to protect its occupants and save lives.”
Tracy plans to pursue his fight against counterfeit airbags by taking a three-prong approach. First, he wants to see state regulations. Secondly, he said insurers need to stop funding these people.
He stressed, “Send your vehicles to the best facilities with all the certifications. These men and women go through several hours of training each year. The insurance industry wants to use some fly-by-night shop to get the vehicle back on the road and they have to stop that practice. Lastly, repair facilities have to band together and pull out these bad apples; then, let the legal system finish them off.”
Fortunately, Tracy is convinced that the majority of collision repair facilities are performing quality repairs that will prevent the use of counterfeit airbags and resulting fatalities.
“The vast majority of the repair industry wouldn’t do something like this,” Tracy said. “There are always those that give the profession a bad name. Instead of saving a tree, let’s save a life, how about that?”