Another Airbag Manufacturer Now Under Investigation For Defective Inflators

Following recalls that have impacted millions of vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags, which may overinflate and rupture, federal safety officials are now investigating at least two reports of similar problems involving airbags manufactured by ARC Automotive, Inc. 

On July 13, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation (PDF) into air bag inflators made by ARC, following two separate incidents and two injuries. If the problem is confirmed it could affect nearly half a million Kia and Chrysler vehicles.

The investigation comes as the agency continues to face criticism following tens of millions of Takata airbag recalls, which have affected vehicles from at least 10 major auto manufacturers. Airbags made by Takata have been linked to cases of overinflation and rupturing, potentially causing at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries.

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The two cases highlighted in this most recent NHTSA investigation are believed to be the first reports involving airbag ruptures to be associated with ARC.

According to the NHTSA, the first ARC airbag rupture appears to have occurred in 2009 and involved the driver’s side airbag in a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. The second incident occurred in 2014, in a 2004 Kia Optima. There were two injuries, but the NHTSA does not say whether one person was injured in each accident or if the two injuries occurred in only one vehicle.

Even though the Chrysler incident occurred in 2009, the company did not inform the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) until December 2014. Kia did not inform the NHTSA of the 2014 incident until last month.

In both incidents, it appears the inflator on the ARC airbag ruptured. While the cause of the Kia rupture is unknown, investigators say the Chrysler rupture appeared to be due to a blockage.

“Preliminary analysis indicates that the exhaust path for the inflation gas mixture may have been blocked by an object of indeterminate origin,” the ODI investigation announcement states. “This blockage appears to have caused high internal pressure and subsequent rupture of the inflator assembly.”

The potential affected population of vehicles consists of about 420,000 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivans, and about 70,000 2004 Kia Optima vehicles.

It is unclear at this time if the incidents are due to a defect or common problem.


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