Over 12.3 million vehicles manufactured by Toyota, Honda, Kia, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai will be investigated by US auto safety investigators due to malfunctioning air bag controls that keep air bags from inflating in a crash.
Certain models of the auto manufacturer companies contain air bag control units made by a German auto-parts company, ZF-TRW. These units are suspect in eight deaths due to a problem with the units not deploying the air bags properly.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the control units are supposed to deploy the air bags immediately upon detecting a collision, however, they are failing to to do so because of electrical interference caused by the collision itself.
On Friday, April19, 2019, the NHTSA reported that it had upgraded its investigation of two Toyota Corolla crashes, one of which was fatal, from a ‘preliminary evaluation’ to an ‘engineering analysis.’ The agency could order a recall if the investigation reveals widespread problems with the units.
A year ago the NHTSA began a probe into the examination of air bags of Hyundai and Kia vehicles whose air bags failed to deploy in front end crashes. At that time the NHTSA was aware of six crashes where the air bags did not deploy which lead to four deaths and six injuries. The investigation included 425,000 vehicles and the current probe is now an expansion of that investigation of all autos which have the air bag control units installed in them made by ZF-TRW.
Jenny Gathright, a writer for NPR, reported that an electrical over-stress condition, in the air bag control unit, can happen when the unit experiences a current or voltage beyond its specified limit.
This isn’t the first time that airbags have been the center of auto safety investigation and recalls. Last month, 1.1 million vehicles in the US were recalled voluntarily by Honda after an air bag exploded with an inflator provided by Takata and injured a driver. That was the largest recall in the history of the US auto industry due to other Takata air bags exploding and spraying shrapnel at drivers as well as passengers resulting in the deaths of 15 people in the US and injuring hundreds worldwide.
Jason Levine, who is the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit consumer group, told the AP that after the Takata incident and now the ZF-TRW experience, the industry really needs to do better rather than remaining silent.