US authorities could recall 52 million airbag inflators after deadly accidents. The airbags are being used in millions of vehicles from 11 different manufacturers. Could Europe follow suit?
Officials from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a public hearing on Thursday to suggest that the government recall 52 million airbag inflators, produced by ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive Systems.
The rarely used NHTSA public hearing could prompt one of the largest recalls in US history.
This is the latest step in the 8-year-long NHTSA investigation after the producers of the faulty inflators initially refused to make a recall.
What is the problem?
The NHTSA claims that the faulty airbags have been responsible for at least seven injuries and two deaths in the US and Canada since 2009.
According to their investigations, the airbag inflators in question may rupture and send metal fragments flying.
“These airbag inflators may rupture when the vehicle’s airbag is commanded to deploy, causing metal debris to be forcefully ejected into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” the NHTSA wrote in an initial decision document. “A rupturing air bag inflator poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.”
ARC, acquired in 2016 by Chinese real estate developer Yinyi Group, insists that the recall is not needed and that the ruptured inflators were “isolated incidents”.
Delphi Automotive manufactured approximately 11 million of the inflators through 2004 under a licensing agreement with ARC, which manufactured the remaining 41 million inflators.
Reuters reports that the inflators in question have been used in vehicles from 2000 through early 2018 produced by automakers, including General Motors, Ford Motor, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota Motor, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen.
Is this an issue in Europe?
Euronews reached out to the carmakers listed by Reuters as well as the European Transport Safety Council to see whether or not European cars could potentially be driving around with the same faulty airbags.
As of the publication of this article, only two of them had responded: Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai.
The former said that it had received a letter from the NHTSA dated 5 September, stating that the agency had reached an "initial decision that certain frontal airbag inflators manufactured by ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive Systems contain a defect related to safety".
Mercedes-Benz also said it's reviewing the NHTSA’s initial decision. "Based on the limited information currently available, the ARC inflator type ... [in question] was fitted exclusively in certain smart vehicles," it added.
A spokesperson for Hyundai said the South Korean company is aware of the NHTSA investigation, that it's "fully committed" to the safety and security of our customers, and that it's cooperating the NHTSA.