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Automakers Battling NHTSA to Halt Another Massive Airbag Recall

by | December 20, 2023

Airbags have saved so many lives during the past two decades, but they’ve also been the cause of the largest single automotive recall in history. Automakers are currently fighting an effort by federal safety regulators recall 52 million airbag inflators. It would be the second-largest recall.

General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen are pushing back against an effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall 52 million airbag inflators claiming the data and testing are flawed and the rates are infinitesimally low.

The safety agency noted during a hearing in October, according to Reuters, the inflators produced by two airbag makers, ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive, should be recalled because under certain conditions, the components can explode, sending metal pieces flying into to the vehicle’s cabin. The results could be injuries or even fatalities.

Thus far there has been one U.S fatality and seven injuries connected to the problem, NHTSA said. Safety regulators have been tracking the issue for eight years.


If implemented, it would be the second largest recall, following the action on 67 million Takata airbags used by 19 different manufacturers. The airbags are tied to 18 deaths and more than 400 injuries in the U.S.

However, the three automakers and two airbag producers claim the government’s push to recall is unnecessary, almost punitive. ARC officials contend using NHTSA’s estimated failure rate there would be less than one new rupture during the next 33 years, Reuters reported.

That said, GM recalled 1 million ARC inflators in May after one of them ruptured in March. The driver received facial injuries. However, the company still contends federal safety regulators haven’t shown the need for a “massive and unprecedented expansion” of the current ARC recalls.

Reuters reported in October at least 20 million GM vehicles could be affected, while Stellantis has more than 4.9 million vehicles with inflators at issue and has reported just one rupture, in 2009, the automaker said.

The inflators are installed in vehicles made from 2000 through early 2018 by a dozen automakers. Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Kia and Porsche also filed statements of opposition as part of NHTSA’s formal comment process.

Delphi Automotive, which is now part of AutoLiv, produced 11 million inflators from 2000 to 2004 as part of a licensing agreement with ARC, which manufactured another 41 million inflators.

Autoliv opposes the possible recall, arguing the agency has not shown they are defective. ARC is against the action, noting: “(NHTSA’s) record is devoid of any evidence, let alone credible evidence, that a systemic defect exists.”


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