Vehicles that end up in the scrapyard are sometimes dismantled and pieces sold to companies — often repair shops — to be used in other vehicles as replacement parts. While this is perfectly legal, it’s also dangerous, especially when it concerns recalled supplies, such as the deadly shrapnel-shooting Takata airbags.
The Associated Press reports these concerns are very real after one Las Vegas woman was injured in a crash earlier this year when the Takata airbag in her car deployed sending pieces of metal shooting at her throat.
The woman’s 2002 Honda Accord, which was purchased last summer, didn’t originally contain a recalled Takata airbag. Instead, the airbag was likely taken or stolen from a 2001 Accord that was in a salvage yard, a rep for Honda tells the AP.
Engineers with the carmaker inspected the woman’s car following her crash and traced the airbag inflator to the recalled 2001 Accord, which is among those deemed to be the most dangerous when it comes to Takata’s recall.
The Honda rep says the older vehicle’s airbag was removed and then placed in the 2002 vehicle, which had also previously been wrecked, sold to a salvage yard, repaired, and then resold.
The woman’s family says they were unaware of the vehicle’s history, including that it contained parts for a vehicle under recall for the airbag defect.
“It’s a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” an attorney for the family tells the AP. ”You would think in today’s age with communications technology these types of things should not be allowed to happen.”
Part of the reason such incidents do happen, however, is that no state or federal agency monitors the re-use of recalled parts, the AP notes.
While consumers can check a VIN against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to check of recalls, that database doesn’t take into account repairs made once a vehicle is deemed to be out of service.
In the case of Accord involved in the Las Vegas crash, the AP notes that the NHTSA site returns no outstanding recalls.
Michael Brooks, acting director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, tells the AP that there should be a program in place to prevent issues like this from happening. Additionally, he warns car shoppers to be wary of cars with salvage titles, as there is no way to know where the parts are coming from.
For its part, Honda has a program to buy back airbags made by Takata in order get them out of circulation, the rep said.