Owners of relatively new Honda vehicles in the United States face an unusual epidemic: airbags thefts.
Criminals across the country are targeting Hondas to steal airbags, which they subsequently sell to shady repair shops or online customers.
According to police records and research from USA Today, the phenomenon is not an isolated one. An increasing number of similar thefts affects major markets including Miami, New York City, and the Washington, D.C. area.
Criminals steal approximately 50,000 airbags each year in the United States, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). However, the organization doesn’t know why recent-model Hondas are at higher risk. The Civic and Accord (pictured below) dominate the statistics.
Thieves are interested in airbags because those parts are profitable, with prices sometimes topping $1,000 apiece. Criminals typically target the driver’s airbag, as demand for it is high. After all, it’s the most likely airbag to deploy in a car. On the black market, stolen airbags get sold for $200-$300. Buyers often include people who repair cars at home to save money or as a makeshift business.
“Because of their portability, airbags can be easily removed and installed as ‘new’ by unscrupulous collision repair shops,” the NICB says. “These dishonest operators will then charge the vehicle owner or their insurer the full price for the replacement, thus committing insurance fraud.”
Are the thefts related to airbag recalls in recent years? Yes and no
A string of airbag recalls in recent years might be responsible for the spike in airbag thefts. However, they don’t explain why recent-model Hondas are the most targeted.
Honda says a cause might be the fact that its vehicles are among the best-sellers in their segments. Still, that doesn’t necessarily explain why thieves prefer them for airbag theft. Industry experts believe the ongoing Takata airbag recall might have something to do with it. Honda had the most vehicles affected by the recall, nearly 12 million units in the United States (including some Acura models).
However, individual thefts investigated by USA Today didn’t include a single Honda model affected by that recall. For now, the airbag thefts remain a mystery but something tells us we’ll hear more about this unusual phenomenon.