Representing Injured People

NHTSA could mandate recall of defective airbags as last resort

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2023 | Car Accidents

If you thought the problem of exploding airbags was resolved years ago, you’ll be surprised to learn that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has decided it’s time to take aggressive action against one airbag manufacturer that has thus far refused to issue a voluntary recall.

According to NHTSA, airbags made by ARC Automotive Inc. in Tennessee have injured at least seven people and killed at least two since 2009 in the U.S. and Canada alone. At least one person was killed just two years ago in a minor collision when her airbag deployed, exploded and sent shrapnel flying. At least one rupture occurred as recently as this March.

Now NHTSA is moving towards issuing a court-ordered recall of some 52 million air bag inflators by scheduling a public hearing on the matter early next month. This is a rare step. Most product recalls are voluntary, and those that involve equipment in vehicles are typically issued by the automakers. 

Defective inflators are the problem

According to NHTSA, the issue is defective inflators that “may rupture when the vehicle’s airbag is commanded to deploy, causing metal debris to be forcefully ejected into the passenger compartment of the vehicle….[posing] an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.”

The problem is caused by welding byproducts that can clog the canister, allowing pressure to build up and blow it apart when the airbag deploys. The manufacturer says it has fixed the problem, but it can’t guarantee that it won’t occur again.

In a statement, ARC Automotive said that “the manufacturing processes may not completely eliminate the risk of occasional or isolated failures.” It also notes that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act “does not require vehicles and equipment to never experience a failure in the field. Rather the Safety Act seeks to protect the public against unreasonable risks.”

Who could have defective airbags in their vehicle?

These potentially dangerous airbags are installed in approximately 25 million vehicles in the U.S. made by at least 12 major automakers: Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Hyundai, Kia, Porsche, Stellantis, Toyota and Volkswagen.

It may be impossible to find out if the car you’re driving has airbags with this defect that could seriously injure or kill someone until it’s too late. By reporting these incidents and taking legal action when harm is suffered, motorists can help get defective parts off the market – and the roads – and seek the justice and compensation they deserve.