NHTSA probe to investigate airbag failures in 12.3M cars

April 23, 2019

Federal regulators have expanded an investigation into airbags that may not inflate in the event of a crash to include 12.3 million vehicles in the U.S.

The NHTSA on Tuesday posted documents to its website stating that it will investigate airbag control units made by automotive supplier ZF-TRW. The airbag control units were fitted to certain 2010 through 2019 Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Toyota vehicles, although a list of affected vehicles has not been made public. 

According to the NHTSA, the control units can fail in a crash. The government agency said that electrical signals caused during the crash may disable or damage an airbag circuit, which would prevent the airbags from firing. 

Investigators are aware of eight deaths in the U.S. related to the airbag control units that failed during crashes. Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, and Kia previously recalled vehicles to replace ZF-TRW airbag control units said to be better insulated against electrical signal interference. However, the airbags failed to deploy in two crashes involving 2018 and 2019 Toyota Corollas equipped with the upgraded control units, which prompted the NHTSA to upgrade its investigation.  

TRW, which was absorbed by German automotive supplier ZF in 2015, has been aware of airbag failures since at least 2011, according to documents posted to the NHTSA's website. 

The investigation echoes the massive Takata airbag inflator recall, although the circumstances surrounding the faulty parts are unrelated. 

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