Massive Airbag Inflator Recall Sought for 52M Devices Used by 12 Major Automakers Between 2000 and 2018
Federal regulators may recall about 52 million airbag inflators used by a dozen different automakers over the past two decades, following a number of instances reported where the airbags exploded when deploying, sending sharp shrapnel flying towards passengers, which has already caused a number of severe injuries and at least one death.
Following an investigation, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an initial decision (PDF) on September 5, indicating ARC Automotive, Inc. and Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC air bag inflators should be pulled from the market because they could pose a significant safety risk to vehicle occupants. The NHTSA has scheduled a public hearing for October 5 to take comments on its findings and decision.
The NHTSA investigation comes after reports of injuries and at least one death in ARC and Delphi inflators manufactured before 2018. Investigators warn the inflators may cause the airbag to overinflate and explode, showering vehicle occupants with potentially deadly shrapnel. The single and dual stage inflators were used in both the driver and passenger air bag modules of vehicles from 12 major automakers.
Delphi manufactured approximately 11 million inflators from July 2001 until 2010 under a contract agreement with ARC, and ARC has manufactured approximately 41 million inflators from 2000 until January 2018.
The agency believes that a manufacturing error can cause metal to block the inflator opening, which could result in the airbags overinflating and rupturing, spraying sharp fragments into the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
ARC and Delphi Airbag Explosions Reported
The defective air bag inflators have been linked to at least seven injuries and at least one death in the United States. Additionally, the NHTSA is also aware of at least one death in Canada.
In 2021, a Michigan driver died after the driver’s side air bag inflator ruptured in a model year 2015 Chevrolet Traverse. The vehicle had been involved in a prior accident and the original airbag inflated normally, however, an ARC inflator was installed as a replacement.
Another Michigan driver sustained facial injuries after the driver’s side airbag inflator exploded in a model year 2017 Chevrolet Traverse in March 2023. That vehicle was also equipped with an inflator manufactured by ARC.
In Canada, another report indicates a driver was killed in 2016, after the driver’s side airbag inflator ruptured in a model year 2009 Hyundai Elantra. The airbag module was equipped with an ARC manufactured inflator.
The defective inflators were used to produce airbag modules in vehicles manufactured by 12 major automakers including:
- BMW of North America, LLC, FCA US LLC,
- Ford Motor Company,
- General Motors LLC,
- Hyundai Motor America, Inc.,
- Kia America, Inc.,
- Maserati North America, Inc.,
- Mercedes-Benz USA LLC,
- Porsche Cars North America, Inc.,
- Tesla Inc.,
- Toyota Motor North America, Inc., and
- Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
The NHTSA’s public hearing to discuss the potential airbag inflator recall will be held at 9:30 a.m., October 5, 2023, in the West Atrium, U.S. Department of Transportation Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC. Persons wishing to attend the public meeting or make oral statements must register at https://www.nhtsa.gov/events/public-meeting-arc-delphi-air-bag-inflators before the close of business on September 22, 2023.
Takata Airbag Inflator Recalls
The circumstances behind the ARC and Delphi airbag explosions resemble those that led to recalls for nearly 100 million Takata airbag inflators worldwide since 2014, due to similar reports of explosions, injuries and deaths.
In the U.S., the recalls impacted approximately 67 million vehicles from more than 20 automobile manufacturers in what continues to be one of the largest and most complex series of recalls to ever be recorded in the U.S.
Officials indicate the issue with the Takata airbag inflators stems from the manufacturer’s use of chemical ammonium nitrate to inflate the air bags when an auto accident occurs. The chemical can react to heat or humidity when exposed and breakdown, causing the chemical to breakdown inside its metal enclosure, and can result in an explosion of metal debris.
To date, at least 38 people have died worldwide and more than 400 have been injured due to the recalled Takata airbags.
A number of lawsuits have been filed in response to the series of Takata airbag recalls, and include claims of victims who suffered severe, life-changing or life-threatening injuries after the airbags exploded following an auto accident.
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