By on April 23, 2019

2017 Toyota Corolla LE - Image: Toyota

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]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

14 Comments on “Federal Probe Covers 12.3 Million Vehicles; Airbags May Not Deploy in a Crash...”

  • avatar

    Well, that’s inconvenient.

  • avatar

    Well, that’s inconvenient.

  • avatar

    Whether they fire or not, they’re responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. When are they going to realize the airbags are a complete and utter failure?

    • 0 avatar

      Are being serious? Cant tell.

      Air bags have saved thousands. Without them, all you have is belts.
      But that is what you are asking for. Belts – no air bags.

      So – what s the advantage?

      • 0 avatar

        @redapple: You’re exactly right: Belts–no air bags.

        The advantage? You don’t have a piece of metal smashing into your eye when they activate and you have drivers more conscious of passenger safety (wearing their seat belts) for when they don’t activate. Oh, the curtain balloons probably work ok but seat belts will prevent you from hitting dash or steering wheel when worn properly. I’ve survived two different front-end crashes–one at 45 mph and another at 20mph–and didn’t even get bruised above the waist, though the low-hanging dashboard jammed my knee in the 45mph crash (an ’86 Buick T-type). Neither crash had the “benefit” of a mandatory air bag.

    • 0 avatar

      I suppose he wants the freedom to clock his head on the steering wheel, because that’s where the head ends up even with the standard 3-point seat belt. And this happens in the equivalent of a 25 mph impact into a flat, rigid barrier.

      Right front passengers may not hit the dashboard depending on crash severity and how far back the seat is placed, but they still face the prospect of serious neck injuries as the head moves quite far forward and down.

    • 0 avatar

      They used to tend to hurt small people and be a big help otherwise. With the airbag, the seatbelt can be stretchier, so you get fewer injuries from the belt itself.

      Modern multi-stage airbags are FAR less likely to injure you (at least if they aren’t from Takata). They fire based on the weight in the seat. But for sure, early airbags that were calibrated for adult males where a BAD THING if you were a 5′-nothing female or a little kid sitting close to the wheel/dash.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been to hundreds of automobile accidents. Many times, I’ve seen airbags reduce injuries or save lives. Not once have I seen an airbag cost a life.

      Airbags are the opposite of a complete and utter failure.

    • 0 avatar


      Bomb may fail to explode!!!!


  • avatar

    ?? What no mention of Ford ?? EBFlex goes back to bed and pulls covers over head.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar
    Joe Enrico

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

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • jack4x: “Selective environmental regulations have made diesels cost more” Even this is misleading....
  • FreedMike: Not sure what makes this a better daily driver than a Jetta GLI, Elantra N-line, or Forte GT…?...
  • FreedMike: Honda has been making Si sedans for quite some time now. Size-wise, the Civic has also been a...
  • Margarets Dad: Posky seems unable to write anything without throwing his usual barrelful of red herrings at us....
  • ajla: The three appeals of diesel I can see are: 1. Lower revs. This is probably the biggest one. Like you wrote alot...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber