By on April 8, 2014


Bloomberg reports the Center for Auto Safety, citing a government petition from former General Motors researcher Donald Friedman, is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a defect investigation into 2003 – 2010 Chevrolet Impalas over a glitch in the car’s software that could “misread a passenger’s weight,” preventing frontal airbags from deploying. The agency has 143 records of fatalities linked to failed airbags in the Impala, 98 of which noted the occupants were wearing seat belts at time of death.

The request reflects growing concern over the algorithms used in advanced airbags, designed to meet strengthened U.S. regulations in 2003 after previous airbags were found in 300 cases to prove fatal to small adults and children due to excessive force upon deployment, and where improvements could be made.

Going in-depth regarding the April 2006 sign-off of the improved version of the out-of-spec ignition switch linked to the ongoing 2014 GM recall crisis, Automotive News found that while midlevel engineer Ray DeGiorgio put his signature upon what turned out to be the validation sign-off presented before the Senate hearing last week, former engineers have noted that said document was merely placing “a bow” on a package built upon by several engineers before presentation to GM. The resulting paper trail could shed more light on how the decision came to be made, as the anonymous engineers told the publication said decision to change the part would need to go through several checks and balances before signing-off on the upgraded part.

As for out-of-spec parts in general, Automotive Industry Action Group senior program manager for quality Scott Gray says that while a part may be “out of tolerance,” it may not be “the root cause of a failure” unless said part “affects a component’s fit, form or function.”

At that point, the part would go through two industry-standard protocols: Failure Mode Effects Analysis, and Production Part Approval Process. The first is a constantly updated document that gives engineers the tools needed to evaluate the out-of-spec part and related components in determining where problems could arise prior to approving a design. The second, used by suppliers, determines whether or not the part can be built, with automakers paying for tooling only upon successful completion. Further, if even a single tiny change occurs with the part, the entire part must undergo the protocol again.

CNN Money reports GM is debating on whether or not to compensate affected customers whose relatives were either injured or killed in recall-related accidents prior to the automaker’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Should GM do so, the liability shield established in the bankruptcy would fall, opening itself to 2,500 lawsuits left behind with “Old GM” in so doing.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports Chevrolet will make an announcement today regarding the next-gen Volt involving a boost of 1,400 jobs and $450 million spent in preparing both the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Township battery plant for the updated EV. Speculation of what will be announced include a new platform for the 2016 Volt to an all-new unnamed EV, as well as Opel receiving a vehicle priced lower than the Ampera.

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14 Comments on “NHTSA Asked To Investigate Impala Airbags, GM May Compensate Recall Victims...”

  • avatar

    And the hits keep on commin’.

  • avatar

    At this point I’m just waiting for my vehicles to be brought up, probably not a question of if but rather when.
    GMT345/745 side airbags, when going around curve, if loose gravel is hit can cause seat frame to trigger side airbags.

    • 0 avatar

      I have my eyes on the new SS from AU, will see if the heavy media coverage of bad news will force the price down…if any are left, they are selling quite well.

      • 0 avatar

        I haven’t seen sales numbers, how are they doing?, I would love one. It doesn’t have the newer style 6.2 (if it did it would probably get 60% better FE) but I prefer the LS style 6.2 anyways.
        I doubt the price can move too much but anything is good I guess.

        • 0 avatar

          I looked at one yesterday. It is very, very nice. And really moves with just a little tap of the right hind paw. The sales weasel said they have sold roughly 1200, so not many left. Amazingly he said I should wait until next year of improvements and hopefully a better price.

          • 0 avatar

            Although suiting everyone’s taste is impossible, they could really sway me with a hand brake instead of the electric park brake. Manual while being preferred just isn’t something I should put my hopes in for.

            If it was given the marketing budget of the impala and available 3.6, it would kill the impala, which is probably why its almost kept as a secret.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    If GM has to compensate the victims, that will be the first case (that I can think) of the taxpayer’s money actually coming back to the taxpayer involving GM.

    Taxpayers footed the bill for the Cash for Clunkers debacle, the GM bailout, the sale of GM stock by the treasury, etc…

  • avatar

    So in 2010 there was a quietly made upgrade to the sensor with no announcement made?

    Starting to look like a pattern…

    • 0 avatar

      But wait – isn’t that called “continuous improvement”? With thousands of parts in a car being continuously improved, there would have to be a separate office of announcements to keep up. Nobody but lawyers would read them all. ;)

  • avatar

    Hey NHSTA, 03-10 would be all W-bodies not only Impala but also LaCrosse, Grand Prix, and Century/Regal.

  • avatar

    Instead of the state forcing use to wear our seat belt at gun-point (armed police fine you, it’s not optional), why not use positive reinforcment?

    Why not drop the fines and make the law read “if you are sitting in the front seat and wearing your seatbelt and in an accident, the state of Michigan (or _______) will pay all your medical expenses if injured, and/or “if a dead body is unbuckled….$500,000 to family”)

    Since seat belts “save lives”, that seems like a good way to enourage people to wear them. I personally think my odds are BETTER with a seat belt–but I resent being forced to wear if I moving my car to a better parking spot for 2 minutes.

    All auto accident deaths are tragic, but we should be free to choose to wear seat belts, or not.

    I think that if you hit a solid object (large tree or parked or moving vehicle) at a speed of about 30-40 mph or more, you will die or be permanently injured. Am I mistaken in my assumption? Fellow TTAC readers, please weigh in!

  • avatar

    W-body gonna W-body.

  • avatar

    One model from GM causing more deaths than the most rabid shill can blame on Toyota pedal misapplication? Crickets…

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