Nissan North America has announced a recall of select 2012 Nissan Versa vehicles. According to a bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the airbag systems in some of those cars may not have been properly manufactured.
The airbags were supplied by Robert Bosch LLC, based in Plymouth, Michigan. Unfortunately, the way that Bosch built them may cause a key sensor to malfunction. NHTSA's defect bulletin explains:
"In the subject vehicles, dissimilar metals were used in the side air bag sensor connector harness (gold “female” connector and tin “male” connector). In some of the affected vehicles this metal combination may lead to fretting and oxidation on the pins of the Satellite Sensor-to-Airbag Control Unit (ACU) harness connection. Fretting and oxidation on the connector pins increases the likelihood of a momentary communication loss from the satellite sensor to the ACU."
Normally when such a signal loss happens, the system enters a backup state, which keeps the airbags deploying as intended. However, if the Versa's car door is slammed while the vehicle is experiencing a signal loss, the backup may interpret it as a collision and deploy the curtain airbag, seat-mounted side airbag, and seat belt pretensioner nearest that door.
If there were someone near the door when that happened--an adult passenger, a child in a child seat, a pet, etc.--the deployment could cause serious injuries. To date, NHTSA has received at least three owner complaints about the issue.
The recall affects 54,751 Nissan Versa vehicles registered in the U.S. All are from the 2012 model year.
Nissan hasn't yet indicated when it will mail recall notices to owners. When they do go out, owners will be able to take their vehicles to Nissan dealers, who will replace the Versa's side impact satellite sensors and install a new jumper harness at no charge.
If you own one of these vehicles and have further questions, you're encouraged to contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261, or call NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 and ask about safety campaign #17V144000.