6.8M Cars May Have an Explosive Airbag Problem

12 brands including BMW and GM are linked, but airbag manufacturer is refusing a recall
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2023 9:44 AM CDT
6.8M Cars May Have an Explosive Airbag Problem
Automobile traffic jams Route 93 South, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Boston. More than 33 million people in the United States are driving vehicles that contain a potentially deadly threat: Airbag inflators that in rare cases can explode in a collision and spew shrapnel.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal reveals that up to 50 car models and 12 brands might be equipped with potentially explosive airbag inflators—that's 6.8 million cars, according to the Journal. The paper arrived at these numbers by examining documentation from automakers given to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during an 8-year investigation. The problematic inflators were made by ARC Automative, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, per the AP, and there's a dispute playing out between the feds and the manufacturer—the former wants a recall and the latter sees no need. The inflators reportedly have the potential to explode upon activation, rather than deploying the airbag in a controlled manner.

The AP explains that if inflators explode, they can eject metal fragments—a threat that the Journal reports has proven deadly in two instances and caused several injuries. A USA Today article emphasizes that the recall covers a wide range of vehicles from 12 major carmakers—including, per the AP, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Ford, Toyota, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Hyundai, and Kia. ARC has told NHTSA that it will not issue a recall, saying in a letter that the incidents "resulted from random ‘one-off' manufacturing anomalies." "We disagree with NHTSA’s new sweeping request when extensive field testing has found no inherent defect," ARC says. While the case plays out, the Center for Auto Safety recommends that owners ask their dealers whether their car is affected. "The more customers who complain, the more pressure that puts on the manufacturers," says a rep. (More product recall stories.)

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