NHTSA Moves Toward Recall of 52 Million Airbag Inflators Over Explosion Concerns
The NHTSA announced on Sept. 4, 2023, that it had decided the airbag inflators made by ARC Automotive Inc. and licensed by Delphi Automotive are faulty and can eject metal debris and explode, which can fatally injure both drivers and passengers. The agency has set a public meeting for Oct. 5, which is the final step before a court-ordered recall.
What's Causing the Air Bag Explosions?
An 8-year NHTSA investigation has determined that the airbag explosions were likely caused by a weld slag, which is a byproduct of certain welding processes.
A weld slag of “sufficient size” can become dislodged and rupture the inflator when the airbag deploys, causing metal debris to be ejected into the passenger cabin, NHTSA said. The agency predicted that additional ruptures are likely to occur in the future, “risking more serious injuries and deaths, if they are not recalled and replaced.”
Related Article: Malfunctioned Airbags Recall Lawsuit Update
Which Vehicles are Equipped With Defective Air Bag Inflators?
The ARC airbag inflators that the NHTSA is seeking to have recalled were installed in vehicles from model years 2000 through 2018 manufactured by a dozen automakers, including:
- General Motors
- Ford Motor
- Toyota Motor
What Does ARC Automotive Say About the Air Bag Inflator Problem?
NHTSA initially asked ARC Automotive to recall the airbag inflators in May 2023, citing the weld slag as being responsible for at least 7 injuries and 2 deaths in the U.S. and Canada since 2009. ARC refused to issue the recall, stating that there was no defect in the inflators and that the NHTSA's conclusion is rooted in a hypothesis rather than a technical conclusion.
NHTSA countered this argument in its decision regarding ARC airbag inflators on Sept. 4.
“ARC inappropriately minimizes the severity of risk from its rupturing inflators by describing these events as manufacturing anomalies or a part of normal business,” the agency said. “Specifically, ARC characterized the ruptures as ‘isolated events’ and ‘an inevitable part of any volume manufacturing process.’ NHTSA rejects any suggestion that the seven inflator ruptures are in some way normal or to be expected, absent a safety defect.”
Tesla Sued for Airbag Malfunction in Model 3 Highway Crash
A lawsuit was filed against Tesla Inc. in 2019 over a Maryland highway crash in which a Model 3’s airbags failed to deploy, leaving a college professor with brain damage.
The Tesla Model 3 belonged to the family of Kristian and Jason Edwards, who were struck by another vehicle, causing it to slam into a guardrail, according to the lawsuit. None of the car’s airbags deployed and Edwards, a public-health professor at George Washington University who was wearing her seat belt, suffered major head trauma and other injuries. Her son in the back also was hurt, the complaint states.
The Edwards' are seeking monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering. The case is Edwards v. Tesla Inc., California Superior Court, Alameda County (Oakland).
Other alleged defects in Tesla’s Autopilot system have been blamed for numerous deaths and injuries, and the automaker has faced criticism of the technology by the NHTSA. Separately, the agency is investigating premature failures of the large central touchscreen and the computer that powers it in Tesla’s Model S sedans.
See all related product liability lawsuits our attorneys covered so far.
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