General Motors has announced a recall of nearly a million vehicles in the United States after a potentially dangerous defect in their airbags came to light.
The May 10 recall covers 994,763 vehicles manufactured by GM. This includes 244,304 Buick Enclave 2014-2017 model vehicles, 457,316 Chevrolet Traverse 2014-2017 models, and 293,143 GMC Acadia 2014-2017 vehicles.
“In these vehicles, the front-driver airbag inflator may contain a supplier manufacturing defect that may result in inflator rupture during deployment,” the recall states.
“An inflator rupture may cause metal fragments to pass through the airbag and into the vehicle interior, which may result in injury or death to vehicle occupants.”
The recall (pdf) follows a crash involving a 2017 model year Chevrolet Traverse that was made known to GM on March 24. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and GM inspected the vehicle in April and confirmed that the front driver airbag inflator of the car got ruptured during deployment. The airbag module was manufactured by Tennessee-based ARC Automotive.
GM was aware of two previous ruptures in ARC-manufactured airbag modules in its 2015 model year Chevrolet Traverse vehicles. Including the latest incident, all events involved the same airbag inflator variant.
The remedy will involve dealers replacing the front-airbag module of the recalled vehicles. Dealers were to be notified on May 10 about the matter while owners are expected to be notified about the issue on June 26.
ARC Airbag Inflator Recall
Meanwhile, the NHTSA in April wrote a letter (pdf) to ARC Automotive asking for an immediate recall of millions of its airbag inflators, citing a dangerous defect in the component.
“The subject inflators are hybrid, toroidal inflators supplied to Tier 1 air bag module suppliers for incorporation in their completed airbag modules,” the letter said. “Through January 2018, 67 million of the subject driver and passenger frontal airbag inflators have been supplied to approximately six Tier 1 airbag system manufacturers.”
“The subject inflators have been incorporated into air bag modules used in vehicles manufactured for sale or lease in the United States by at least 12 vehicle manufacturers.”
The NHTSA highlighted nine incidents where ARC-manufactured airbags got ruptured and led to significant injuries or deaths. Seven of these accidents took place in the United States.
In case the ARC does not conduct a recall of the air inflators, it is required to provide the Office of Defect Investigation (ODI) with a full explanation.
In a situation of no recall, NHTSA may proceed to take an initial decision that the airbag inflator does indeed contain a safety defect and initiate “other appropriate action.”
Recall Response By ARC, Other Car Recalls
In a May 11 letter (pdf) to the director of ODI, ARC stated that it “strongly disagrees” with NHTSA’s suggestion of recalling 67 million airbags.
The letter insisted that NHTSA’s suggestion is “not based upon any objective technical or engineering conclusion regarding the existence of a defect.”
“The existence of seven field incidents among the 67 million toroidal driver and passenger inflators produced for the U.S. market during the 18-year period referenced in the RRL (recall request letter) across multiple manufacturing lines in different plant locations does not support a finding that a systemic and prevalent defect exists across this population,” it argues.
In addition to GM, other major car companies have also announced recalls in recent times due to concerns about airbag inflators. Earlier this month, Ford recalled 231,942 of its 2004-2006 Ranger vehicles.
The NHTSA had warned that the inflator may have been incorrectly installed due to which the passenger airbag is likely to not inflate properly, which essentially puts the passengers at risk. Back in February, Ford had recalled 98,000 Rangers due to the same issue.
BMW has also warned owners of around 90,000 older vehicles not to drive due to a higher possibility that the airbags may explode in case of a crash.