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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking a recall of about 52 million airbag inflators used by Mercedes-Benz and many other major automakers, calling the parts unsafe and susceptible to rupture. The inflators have been linked to at least 7 injuries and 1 death.
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U.S. Seeks to Recall 52 Million Airbag Inflators

The NHTSA scheduled a public meeting for October 5, 2023, to decide whether to move forward with a recommendation to issue a formal recall on the airbags, which were manufactured by ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive Systems, according to a letter [1.] issued by the agency on September 5.

Of the 52 million airbag inflators in question, 41 million were made by ARC and 11 million were produced by Delphi using a design licensed by ARC. Both companies rejected the NHTSA’s initial determination that their airbag inflators were defective.

At least 7 people have been injured and 1 killed in 7 incidents in the U.S. and Canada that have been linked to faulty airbag inflators made by ARC / Delphi.

Which Vehicles Contain Defective Airbag Inflators?

The airbags were manufactured in China, Mexico, and Knoxville, Tennessee, and were used by at least 12 automakers in models from 2000 to 2018: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Porsche, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen.

“An airbag inflator that fails by rupture not only does not perform its job as a safety device but instead actively threatens injury or death, even in a crash where the vehicle occupants would otherwise have been unharmed,” NHTSA said.

Takata Airbag Recall

The ARC / Delphi airbag inflator controversy comes on the heels of the NHTSA’s investigation of inflators made by the Japanese Takata Corporation, which were found to explode without warning, even when the airbags were not deployed in a crash. The investigation found that Takata used a propellant that could degrade over time from exposure to humidity.

The Takata airbag defect was ultimately linked to at least 12 deaths in the U.S. alone, according to the NHTSA. Over 70 million vehicles fitted with Takata airbag inflators were recalled in more than 40 countries, making it one of the largest and most expensive recalls in history.

What’s the Problem with ARC Air Bag Inflators?

NHTSA investigators found that ARC inflators could explode when a vehicle’s airbags are deployed, and therefore “pose an unreasonable risk of death or injury,” the letter said. ARC has thus far declined to issue a formal recall, saying that it did not believe a defect existed, and that the NHTSA’s finding was not based on “any objective technical or engineering conclusion.”

Air bag inflators contain an explosive substance such as ammonium nitrate which is compacted into tablets stored in a metal cylinder. In the event of a severe collision, the tablets are designed to create a controlled explosion that rapidly fills the airbags with gas.

However, the NHTSA investigation revealed that ARC’s manufacturing process could leave bits of welding material, known as “weld slag,” inside the cylinder, which could clog the exit opening and cause an explosion violent enough to eject metal debris at high speed into the vehicle’s cabin.

The agency has been investigating ARC inflators since 2015. The most recent incident involving a rupture occurred in Michigan in March 2023, when the driver of a 2017 Chevrolet Traverse experienced severe injuries to the face.

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The Products Liability Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Mercedes Airbag Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and are currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one was injured by an exploding Mercedes airbag, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.

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