US wants a recall of 67 million airbag inflators, but the manufacturer disagrees

US wants a recall of 67 million airbag inflators, but the manufacturer disagrees

New York CNN

In a letter sent to ARCAutomotive - a major manufacturer - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called for an immediate recall on 67 million inflators because of a dangerous flaw. The automotive supplier who made the component disputes the need to do any kind of recall.

NHTSA cites at least nine incidents in which airbags manufactured Knoxville's ARC Automotive ruptured, causing serious injuries or even deaths beginning in 2009. Seven of the nine incidents - including one death - occurred in the United States. According to ARC, the 67 million inflators NHTSA is calling for recall were produced over a period of 18 years prior to January 2018 when the company installed equipment to inspect the inflators.

Already, millions of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, the now bankrupt Japanese manufacturer, have been recalled. NHTSA stated that exposure to heat and humidity for a prolonged period of time caused the airbags to explode.

Takata airbags, in comparison to ARC's, caused 18 deaths. More than 400 drivers suffered injuries including blindness and mutilation. This is also the largest recall in auto history.

NHTSA has not specified which manufacturers use the airbag inflators.

A driver of a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse in Michigan died in 2021 after the airbag ruptured. According to the NHTSA letter, an airbag rupture in a Hyundai Elantra 2009 also caused a death in Canada.

In a letter, the agency stated that airbag inflators which project metal fragments at vehicle occupants rather than inflating an attached airbag create an unreasonable risk for death and injury.

GM announced that it would recall almost 1 million vehicles in the US due to a defect in the airbag inflator.

This recall includes Buick Enclaves, Chevrolet Traverses, and GMC Acadias from 2014 to 2017 with modules manufactured by ARC Automotive. Dealers will replace airbag modules.

ARC is not in agreement with the idea of a recall.

Steve Gold, ARC's vice president of product integrity, wrote a letter on Thursday stating that the company'strongly opposes' the tentative conclusion by the agency that a recall is needed for 67,000,000 airbags.

The letter criticised NHTSA for its request for a recall, stating that it was not based on any objective engineering or technical conclusion about the existence of the defect and that 'failures' were more than just occasional or isolated.

Gold's claims are supported by nearly eight years of collaboration with NHTSA in an investigation of ruptured airbags inflators. This included tests on 918 inflators that were pulled from cars in salvage yards and sent to Gold's laboratories for testing.

Gold responded to NHTSA’s request for recall by writing, 'None' of the 918 inflators ruptured during the tests. Gold wrote that the tests showed a 99% reliability, and 99% confidence in the inflators of the population.

Gold wrote that at least one of NHTSA's ruptures was the result of a "relatively isolated manufacturing anomaly" and therefore a wider recall was not necessary. Gold said that the incident in Canada involving the Hyundai ELantra involved a component not used on the US market.

Gold's letter stated that the authority of the NHTSA to order certain manufacturers to conduct recalls on safety equipment does not extend even to original equipment manufacturers, like ARC.

Gold wrote that the company 'understands' that GM is taking action out of caution in order to address any potential concerns regarding the inflators. Three of the incidents specifically involved the Chevy Traverse.

Despite ARC’s protests, NHTSA wrote that they still believe the number of accidents is high enough to warrant a recall. It cited seven incidents to support its argument. One incident resulted fatally, another in "severe" injuries and others in facial injuries.