Federal safety regulators are pushing to get 52 million air bags recalled due to the threat that they could explode, severely injuring or even killing a car’s occupants.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a ruptured inflator from these air bags killed at least two people, one in the United States and one in Canada, and caused at least seven serious injuries in US vehicles since 2009, with most occurring since 2016. The air bags were built by ARC and by Delphi between 2000 and 2018. About 11 million of the air bags were manufactured by Delphi under a licensing agreement with ARC.
They are included in vehicles built by General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen. NHTSA did not release exact models containing the air bags, saying that will be determined by the manufacturers. It also did not give an estimate for how many vehicles contain the air bags, since most vehicles have multiple air bags. The agency did not say how many cars may have more than one of the air bags it wants recalled. The number of air bags still in use is less than the 67 million that NHTSA estimated earlier this year.
GM recalled about 1 million vehicles in May because of the air bag, including the model years 2014-2017 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.
So far, ARC has disputed the agency’s findings.
“We disagree with NHTSA’s new sweeping request when extensive field testing has found no inherent defect,” an ARC spokesperson said in a statement in May.
But NHTSA is moving ahead with its efforts to force a recall, scheduling a hearing for October.
“Air bag inflators that rupture when commanded to deploy are plainly defective, as they both fail to protect vehicle occupants as they should, and, themselves, pose an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants,” said the agency’s statement Tuesday announcing the hearing.
NHTSA and other federal safety agencies do not have the power to order a recall on their own. Typically, manufactures agree to recalls requested by the agency after investigations. Very often manufacturers will order recalls without even being requested after their own investigations detect problems.
It can be a lengthy and expensive process to impose a recall on manufacturers who refuse to comply with recall requests.
This recall would be nearly as large as the 67 million airbags made by Takata that were recalled starting in 2014. The agency said those air bags caused more than 400 injuries and 18 fatalities in US vehicles. It also forced Takata into bankruptcy in 2017.
— CNN’s Ramishah Maruf contributed to this report