US regulators are urging the recall of 67 million air bag inflators that they say can explode in a crash, a major development in a safety issue that has plagued the auto industry for years. over the years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified at least nine cases of ruptured air bag inflators that led to injuries, including two deaths, from 2009 until as recently as this past March. The parts, made by Knoxville, Tennessee-based ARC Automotive Inc., should be recalled immediately, the agency said in a LETTERS of the company posted online on Friday.
Air bags are used by at least a dozen car manufacturers, including General Motors Co., Stellar NV, Volkswagen AG and [hotlink]Hyundai Motor[/hotlink] Co. withdrew. GM equipped nearly 1 million vehicles from 2014 to 2017 with ARC inflators.
However, the parts maker says it is premature to initiate a major recall. ARC said in a LETTERS to the agency that it will continue to cooperate with the investigation but does not believe that NHTSA will force it to conduct a safety recall. The dispute may end up in court if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
The situation echoes the extensive recall of more than 100 million defective air bag inflators manufactured by the now-defunct Takata Corp., which is the largest auto recall in US history. While the ARC problem may seem unrelated, the prospect of recalling tens of millions of vehicles for repair will be a significant burden on the industry and car owners.
NHTSA does not specify every car or car model that uses ARC parts.
The GM recall includes 994,763 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia vehicles from model years 2014 through 2017, NHTSA said in a filing. GM shares were little changed in postmarket trading at 5:38 pm in New York.
The ARC said it “strongly disagrees” with NHTSA’s finding that there is a safety defect in air bag inflators manufactured over an 18-year period. The company has been cooperating with the agency’s investigation since 2015.
The alleged defect in ARC inflators has significant differences compared to the Takata defect, which was linked to 25 deaths and 400 injuries in the US, according to NHTSA.
Regulators said they “tentatively concluded” that welding done in the manufacture of ARC inflators until January 2018 may have left debris inside the part. During the crash, the gas produced by the ignition must fill the bag. If the channel is blocked, it can cause excess pressure to build up inside the inflator and can spray out metal fragments, the agency said.
Seven of the nine incidents cited by NHTSA occurred in the US, including the death of a driver in Michigan in 2021. The agency also investigated reports of ruptured ARC inflators in Turkey and Canada, the latter of which killed the driver.
Three of the incidents involved model year 2015-2017 Chevy Traverse SUVs.
Meanwhile, at Takata, the propellant used in its defective parts is based on ammonium nitrate, a chemical explosive that is difficult to keep stable. Investigators have found that the propellant can degrade after years of exposure to changes in temperature and humidity. In a crash, the unstable ammonium nitrate propellant can ignite with great force and in turn destroy its metal housing, sending shrapnel-like pieces of metal into the vehicle.
Despite an extraordinary campaign by regulators and automakers to replace defective parts with safer ones, almost 8 million Takata inflators remain on US roads. The continued deaths have prompted some automakers be warned drivers of don’t drive old cars until the shares are exchanged.