Nissan Airbag Problems Results in Recall of Nearly 1M Vehicles

Nissan has recalled nearly one million vehicles, following reports that the front passenger side air bag may fail to deploy during auto accidents.  

The Nissan recall (PDF) was announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on March 26, after an investigation into at least three reports indicating the front passenger seat air bags did not deploy due to a software malfunction in the occupant classification system.

Spokesman Steve Yeager announced the accidents did not result in any deaths, but the extent of the injuries are unknown and will be further evaluated along with the air bag malfunction.

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The vehicles being recalled are part of the new federally mandated system intended to determine whether the front passenger seat is occupied by an adult or a child. The seats have an electrical system in them with an occupant classification system that will detect the weight of the occupant and whether the air bags should deploy in a crash.

The recall stems from a software malfunction in the occupant recognition system that may be deceived by a few factors says Steve Yeager. The software may not recognize an occupant is in the seat due to the engine vibration when idling, or if the seat is empty and then becomes occupied, or if the occupant is seated in an unusual manner.

The 2013-2014 vehicles affected by the recall include roughly 544,000 Altima sedan, 29,000 Leaf electric vehicles, 124,000 Pathfinder sport SUV’s, 183,000 Sentra compacts, and 6,700 NV200 taxis from 2013. Also included in the recall are 64,000 2013 Infiniti JX35 and 2014 QX60 models and 40,000 2014 Q50 sedans. There are about 990,700 vehicles being recalled in total.

Nissan announced in the recall notice that the malfunction is being evaluated and anticipates to notify owners and dealers around mid-April. The recall notice will instruct owners to schedule a free software update in the vehicle’s occupant classification system at their nearest Nissan dealer.

The recall comes at a time of heightened sensitivity regarding airbags. Last month General Motor announced, and then expanded, an ignition switch recall that affects roughly 1.6 million vehicles.  At least  a dozen deaths were reported in relation to a problem that could result in the ignition turning off, and thus deactivating the airbags, when heavy key rings were used or when the vehicle was jarred, such as during a crash.

GM estimates that at least 12 deaths may be linked to the problem, but some independent analysts suggest that hundreds more deaths may be attributed to the GM ignition problem. GM faces a growing number of ignition recall lawsuits over the recall after admitting it had known about the problem since at least 2001.


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