Federal Probe Covers 12.3 Million Vehicles; Airbags May Not Deploy in a Crash

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
federal probe covers 12 3 million vehicles airbags may not deploy in a crash

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into a slew of late-model vehicles equipped with airbags that may not protect occupants in the event of a crash. The vehicles, built by American, Japanese, and Korean automakers, were all manufactured between 2010 and 2019.

According to the NHTSA, the faulty airbags may be responsible for eight deaths.

The automakers in question are Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., and Toyota Motor Corp. The NHTSA claims the fault lies in an airbag control unit supplied by TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., since acquired by ZF Friedrichshafen.

According to documents released by the federal agency, the airbags in affected vehicles can fail to deploy. Essentially, the crash itself causes a flurry of electrical signals that can disable the airbag control circuit, leading to no “go” signal for the airbag. The NHTSA began a preliminary evaluation last year, upgrading its probe to an engineering analysis in April of this year.

From the Associated Press (via CNBC):

So far, only Hyundai and Kia and Fiat Chrysler have issued recalls in the case. Four deaths that may have been caused by the problem were reported in Hyundai-Kia vehicles and three in Fiat Chrysler automobiles. NHTSA opened an investigation in March of 2017 involving the TRW parts in Hyundais and Kias.

The upgrade came after investigators found two recent serious crashes involving 2018 and 2019 Toyota Corollas in which the airbags did not inflate. One person was killed.

Last year, Hyundai and Kia recalled a total of 1.1 million vehicles to address the problem, while FCA recalled 1.9 million vehicles in 2016.

At this point, NHTSA investigators aren’t sure just how likely an airbag failure could be. Many vehicles have already been recalled, and the agency hasn’t been able to find any instances of airbag failure in Kia, Hyundai, or FCA vehicles not subject to those recalls. As well, finding cases of electrical interference in Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi vehicles has so far proved fruitless.

Further tests will be conducted to see if electrical interference, or perhaps some other factor, can cause the TRW-ZF units to fail.

[Image: Toyota]

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  • Jack4x Jack4x on Apr 23, 2019

    This article would have been 1000x more useful if the models in question were listed.

    • Derrick Gunter Derrick Gunter on Apr 23, 2019

      Multiple other outlets have listed the ones HKAG and FCA have already recalled. So it's out there.

  • Joe En Joe En on Apr 23, 2019

    Would have been interesting to juxtapose the number of people killed by their air bag and what those vehicles might be?

  • Chris P Bacon It would be really nice if car sites like TTAC helped people find way to avoid these prices. It seems like stories like these just say "suck it up and pay the markup". No. In many cases, you don't have to. I just ordered a Wrangler 4xe and got Chrysler Affiliates price. That 1% under invoice. I know this is the price I got because I sat at the computer in the dealer's showroom and build the Jeep. i got Chrysler Affiliate pricing through my employer. Your employer doesn't offer it? Join treadlightly.org. For $100 membership, guess what? You get Chrysler Affiliate pricing! Want a Ford, but think you can't get X-Plan? Think again! Join EAA.org. X-Plan is included with their membership. A dealer in my area is offering Costco members a $1500 incentive. I'm guessing that has something to do with Costco's car buying service, so there must be some value to be found in that program.Will all dealers honor these discount plans? No. Then that's not the dealer you want to work with anyway. Find another place to shop. It would be nice if TTAC (or any car site) did a little leg work to show readers how to actually save on a car purchase.
  • KOKing I car-sat an A32 while its owner was out of the country, and the then whiz-bang VQ motor was great, but the rest of it wasn't any better than a XV10 or XV20. Definitely the start of its downward slide, unfortunately.
  • Norman Stansfield Why are leaf springs still a thing on this truck?
  • Syke The expected opening comments. Have had mine for two years now, the car has done exactly what I want out of it, and a little better. I'm quite happy with the car, haven't had to adjust my driving style or needs in the slightest, and . . . . oh, did a mention that I don't give a damn what today's price at the pump is?Probably going to go for a second one in the coming year, the wife's happy enough with mine that she's ready and willing to trade in the Nissan Kicks. Eventually, the not often used van will end up getting traded on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, basically ensuring that we don't use gas for anything except the occasional long trip.And the motorcycles.
  • Bobbysirhan I've never found the Allegro appealing before, but a few years of EV rollouts make it seem downright desirable.
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