NHTSA Seeks To Recall 52 Million Airbag Inflators Over Rupture Risk

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to recall 52 million airbag inflators due to a risk of rupturing that could result in injury or death. In the United States, the inflators have already killed one person and injured seven others, the agency revealed. However, an airbag inflator recall for the suspected dangerous products has not been made official, and one manufacturer is claiming the agency lacked “sufficient evidence” that there is a safety defect with the products. 

Airbag Inflator Injuries and Deaths

The NHTSA received reports of seven injuries and one death in the United States alone in connection to the airbag inflators they claim are at risk of rupturing. The agency is also aware of two incidents outside of the U.S., according to USA Today. In one instance, an airbag inflator ruptured in Turkey but didn’t cause injuries, and in another case, it caused the death of a driver in China.

In the U.S., the seven ruptures “involve both single-stage and dual-stage airbag inflators… inflators manufactured at different times and in three different manufacturing facilities, and inflators incorporated into air bag modules by four different module suppliers and used in four different vehicle manufacturers’ vehicles,” the NHTSA reported.

Why is the NHTSA Asking for an Airbag Inflator Recall?

“These airbag inflators may rupture when the vehicle’s airbag is commanded to deploy, causing metal debris to be forcefully ejected into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” the NHTSA reported in a statement in early September. 

“A rupturing air bag inflator poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.”

The NHTSA’s investigation found that the weld slag is potentially causing the ruptures. When the weld slag gets dislodged, it can cause a blockage of the inflator exit orifice when the airbag deploys and lead to the inflator rupturing due to over-pressurization. This could result in shrapnel or metal fragments being propelled from the inflator into the passenger compartment.

The agency is concerned that if these airbag inflators are not recalled, there is a risk of “more serious injuries and deaths” in the future. 

Which Cars Are Affected by the Airbag Inflator Recall?

There is no current recall on vehicles due to the NHTSA’s recommendation. The National NHTSA demanded a voluntary recall back in May, but ARC – which manufacturers the airbag inflators – rejected it, according to Reuters. The agency has now set a public meeting for October 5 in an attempt to compel a recall; such a hearing is required before the NHTSA can seek a court-ordered recall.

The airbag inflators were manufactured by ARC Automotive Inc. and Delphi Automotive Systems through January 2018. Around 11 million of the airbags were manufactured by Delphi under a licensing agreement with ARC.

The products are included in vehicles built by General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen. The exact models that could be impacted have not been identified. 

ARC Responds to Recall Request

“We disagree with NHTSA’s new sweeping request when extensive field testing has found no inherent defect,” ARC said in a previous statement

“There is no legal basis for NHTSA’s ‘demand’ that ARC conduct a safety recall,” ARC Vice President of Product Integrity Steve Gold wrote in response to the agency’s initial findings. “NHTSA’s authority to require manufacturers to conduct safety recalls does not extend to manufacturers that supply original equipment for installation in new motor vehicles.”

Defective and Dangerous Product Lawyers

It remains to be seen whether or not an official recall will result from the NHTSA’s hearing about these airbag inflators. If a recall occurs, it would be nearly as large as the 67 million airbags produced by Takata that have been recalled in the past several years. 

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a ruptured airbag inflator, the experienced attorneys at Phillips Law Group may be able to help. When you are harmed due to any dangerous or defective product, you are entitled to seek justice for that harm, and our firm is committed to vigorously defending the rights of our clients in these personal injury cases. 

Please contact our offices to discuss your legal options with a member of our team. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation. Give us a call or send a message through the form on this page to learn more.