If you own a 2012 Nissan Versa, you might want to be a bit more careful when exiting the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of the Versa following complaints that the car's airbags deployed when the doors were shut.
To date, NHTSA has received three complaints from owners, and the agency is in talks with Nissan to see if the automaker has received similar reports. All incidents have involved the front curtain and seat-mounted airbags, which deployed on the side of the closing car door. In its brief report, NHTSA suggests that the incidents may have been triggered by drivers and passengers shutting their doors too aggressively.
Sudden, unexpected airbag deployments aren't entirely rare in the auto industry. In some cases, there might be a problem with the airbag design. In other cases--as we saw last year in a recall that affected nearly 1.2 million Ram pickups and Dodge Chargers--the issue might be a touchy sensor that mis-reads vibrations from a closing door as a crash impact.
As for whether the 2012 Nissan Versa suffers from such problems and what the cause of any problems might be, it's far too early to say. NHTSA is in the preliminary evaluation phase of its investigation, during which it will work with Nissan to evaluate complaints and isolate potential causes.
If the agency determines that there's an underlying pattern to the incidents, the investigation may move on to phase two, the engineering analysis, when NHTSA will attempt to recreate the deployments in lab settings. Depending on how those tests go, NHTSA might request a full or partial recall of the Versa, which could affect some 155,000 vehicles registered in the U.S.