Just in case you thought you had heard about every sleazy way there is to make a buck, consider this one.
The state of Connecticut is taking legal action to stop the selling of fake replacement air bag covers by Hicks Air Bag Covers of Alabama which markets its product nationwide without the air bags as an inexpensive alternative to installing a complete replacement system.
The state’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, along with Senator Leonard A. Fasano, and the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC) will argue for a complete ban on the sale and installation of air bag covers without air bags.
Currently, the law prevents the sale to repairers or dealer but not individuals. Such laws have already been adopted in Florida, New York and other states.
On its web site and in mailings to Connecticut auto body shops, Hicks openly markets its product as a cheap replacement for use in damaged vehicles. The covers come in 50 colors and fit almost all vehicle makes and models. They cost about $75 to $85.
A full air bag assembly costs between $600 and $700. Of course, that includes the air bags which are a nice touch especially if you are involved in an accident.
In 2003, the company’s owner, Lawrence G. Hicks, pled guilty in federal court to selling counterfeit General Motors air bag covers to individuals, auto body shops, and used car dealerships for use in repairing damaged vehicles.
Hicks admitted selling more 4,600 of the counterfeit air bag covers in 1999 and 2000.
According to 2003 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, air bags saved about 2,500 lives during that year. Nonetheless the Hicks catalog offers the covers alone without the life-saving air bags.
One auto repair specialist stated; "As an auto repairer, my top priority is to fix vehicles so they are safe to drive. ABAC is always very concerned about safety issues. These fake air bag covers endanger public safety and should be outlawed.”
For consumers, it may not always be obvious if air bag has been properly replaced. Thus, when buying a used vehicle, motorists should check for the maker’s logo on the bag cover. The absence of a logo is an indication that the cover is a fake and there may be no air bag underneath.