Auto Safety Group Calls For Chevrolet Impala Airbag Failure Investigation

An automotive safety group indicates that federal regulators are ignoring a potential airbag problem with Chevrolet Impala vehicles, calling for an immediate investigation into the issue, as the maker of the vehicle continues to deal with issues related to defective ignition switches on many different models. 

On April 7, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), wrote a letter (PDF) to David J. Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), urging the agency to review Chevrolet Impala airbag failures reported among vehicles from the 2000 through 2010 model years.

The request comes as the manufacturer, General Motors, faces intense scrutiny following the recall of millions of vehicles worldwide amid ignition switch problems, which may cause the vehicles to suddenly shut off if heavy keys are used or if the ignition is jolted, potentially causing the airbags not to deploy in an accident.

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GM Ignition Recall Lawsuits

In 2014, GM Recalled 2.6M Vehicles Due to Risk of Airbag Failure from Defective Ignition Switches.


According to the letter, Don Friedman, of Xprts LLC, filed a defect petition with NHTSA in November calling for them to look into a problem with a General Motors algorithm that could stop airbags from deploying. According to Friedman, the car’s computer might determine that the occupant’s weight is too low to activate the airbag during the accident if the occupant bounces during the crash, partially coming off the seat. The letter claims the problem could be fixed with a few lines of code that could be easily put into the vehicles during a Chevrolet Impala recall.

CAS claims that, to date, NHTSA has ignored the petition, in violation of federal law. The agency has 120 days to respond to such a petition and that deadline has passed with no response, according to CAS. The letter also highlights Don Friedman’s expertise on the subject, questioning why the NHTSA would choose to ignore his concerns.

“Mr. Friedman is not your average petition. He designed the guidance system for the Sidewinder missile, the Lunar Rover, and was the chief contractor for NHTSA’s Minicars Safety Research Vehicle which provided 50-mph barrier equivalent crash protection,” the CAS letter notes. “Mr. Friedman has likely directed more dynamic vehicle crash tests than anyone outside the auto industry.”

Shadows of GM Ignition Switch Controversy

The letter comes following revelations by congressional investigators that since 2007 NHTSA investigators twice asked their superiors to launch an investigation into the ignition system on Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles following reports that the airbags did not deploy. Both times, NHTSA superiors ignored their investigators’ concerns.

Since February, GM has recalled nearly 2.6 million vehicles worldwide which could have an ignition switch problem that can cause the airbags to fail to deploy. The problem has been linked to at least 13 deaths, according to GM, though a CAS study suggests that number could actually be in the hundreds.

GM officials have admitted that they knew about the problem since at least 2001, but failed to act. The automaker now faces several federal probes and a growing number of GM recall lawsuits brought on behalf of the families of people who allegedly died due to the airbags not deploying, and by investors who say the company was dishonest about the safety of its vehicles.

“The Center is deeply troubled that NHTSA once again may have missed an advanced airbag like it did with the Cobalt,” the CAS letter states. “The Center is even more troubled that once again NHTSA has kept whatever it is doing secret behind closed doors even though there is a specific legal requirement for NHTSA to make its activities public.”

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  • laverneSeptember 19, 2014 at 3:48 am

    I have chevrolet lmpala 2010 airbag come on it cost me 275.00 the airbag still come 3x with back to chevrolet the 3 x chevrolet said that it is back site airbag and it well cost 400.00 but chevrolet still did not fix the problme that i pay for airbag fronal drives side it is a recall on the 2003 to 2010. my car is still at chevrolet

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