The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the United States of America announced that is expanding an investigation into potentially defective airbags to 12.3 million vehicles and upgrading it to an engineering analysis, a step that is required before it can seek to enforce recalls.
The agency said that the airbags were installed in some vehicles from model years that span from 2010 through 2019 that were sold by Honda Motor Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Kia Motors Corp, Hyundai Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp, and Mitsubishi.
The said issue could be linked to as much as eight casualties.
They were equipped with an airbag control unit that were initially produced by TRW Automotive Holdings Corp, which is currently owned by ZF Friedrichshafen. The agency said that they could fail during a crash.
NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation in 2018 of approximately 400,000 vehicles. Today, it said that it had reports of two crashes and two injuries that are related to the defect along with one death in a Toyota vehicle.
John Wilkerson, a ZF spokesperson, said thay the company “is committed to motor vehicle safety and is working cooperatively with NHTSA and our customers in the investigation.”
Toyota said that it was “cooperating with NHTSA’s engineering analysis,” continuing its probe into the said issue. It also said that it would take any appropriate action.
The issue is whether the airbag control units may experience electrical overstress because of harmful electrical signals that result from a crash, causing them to stop working during such an event. In opening its investigation, the NHTSA said that “the probability of this occurring appears to be low.”
NHTSA noted today that the two recent substantial frontal crashes may be linked to the issue. The agency is evaluating whether an “unreasonable risk exists that requires further field action.”
Previously, Kia, Fiat Chrysler, and Hyundai issued recalls for over 2.5 million vehicles with the TRW airbag control units that are in question that might not deploy in crashes.
When it recalled almost 2 million vehicles for airbag nondeployments in 2016, Fiat Chrysler said that it had reports of three deaths and five injuries that might be linked to the defect.
Today, the Center for Auto Safety said that while the deaths were first linked to the issue in 2016 “it has taken a higher body count for more significant action to be taken by NHTSA and most impacted manufacturers remain silent. The industry needs to do better.”
In a statement that was released today, Fiat Chrysler said: “When we became aware of this issue in 2016, we responded accordingly.”
It added: “However, we will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation.”