Investigation Uncovers Cars Without Airbags for Sale at Used Car Lots

Thousands of unsuspecting consumers who purchased the Chevy Impala as used cars found that the side airbags were missing, according to CBS News’ “The Early Show.” The report says the Impalas in question were at one time part of a car rental fleet, and the vehicles’ side airbags were missing.

In a hidden camera investigation, the report uncovered that many of these cars are being offered for sale on used car lots in three states, with window stickers that claim the cars have those side airbags.

One consumer featured in the report had purchased a used Impala from Enterprise in Kansas City. The paperwork said side airbags were included.

But the consumer had no idea her car was part of a deal where General Motors allowed rental car companies and fleet buyers to delete side airbags at the factory to save money.

Now, more than 100,000 Impalas without side airbags are making their way into the used car market. Sean Kane, a safety consultant from Safety Research and Strategies, a safety advocacy group, told “The Early Show” the effort saved fleet buyers $145 per vehicle.

Wearing a hidden camera, The Early Show’s team went to several used car lots across the country that advertised the Impalas in question as having side airbags. When an Early Show producer asked a salesperson if one of the Impalas in question featured side curtain airbags, the salesperson said yes. Another salesperson in Houston didn’t realize the airbags had been deleted.

But the show’s team knew where the side airbags had been when they found the deleted option code “AK5” on the vehicle identification plate in the trunk. The door trim was also missing the word airbag, which the salesperson eventually noticed. Enterprise offered to buy back their vehicles for $750 over the Kelley Blue Book value, or pay $200 for the customer’s inconvenience. Enterprise admits it incorrectly listed some of these cars on its Web site for sale with side airbags, and says the company has apologized for the error. General Motors says these vehicles “meet or exceed federal safety standards” and no longer allows airbags to be deleted.

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