The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a public briefing Thursday to again recommend a recall of more than 50 million airbag inflators that have been linked to potentially deadly explosions. The inflators were produced by suppliers ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive and were included in assemblies installed in vehicles from 2000 through early 2018 produced by 12 automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen.
The hearing was held to consider public input on whether the agency should uphold its initial determination in September that the inflators posed an unreasonable risk to safety. Regulators told the hearing that while the odds for a rupture may not be high, the consequences are “severe and potentially deadly.” The airbag issue currently is linked to one U.S fatality and seven injuries, the agency said.
NHTSA officials said the odds of a serious injury was one in 370,000 airbag deployments of the inflators. They said the issue is tied to debris left in inflators during manufacturing that can become loose and cause a deadly rupture. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least 20 million of the vehicles in the potential recall population were manufactured by GM alone.
Delphi Automotive, part of Autoliv, manufactured approximately 11 million of the inflators through 2004 under a licensing agreement with ARC, which manufactured the remaining 41 million inflators. An ARC executive argued against a recall, telling the hearing that the data collected and extensive testing suggested that the seven incidents linked to the inflators were “isolated” and were “not indicative of a systemic defect.”
GM in May agreed to recall nearly 1 million vehicles with ARC airbag inflators after a rupture in March resulted in facial injuries to a driver.
“Airbag inflators that rupture when commanded to deploy are plainly defective, as they both fail to protect vehicle occupants as they should, and, themselves, pose an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death,” NHTSA said in a September statement. NHTSA scheduled the public hearing after ARC refused to voluntarily carry out a recall.
NHTSA has been scrutinizing airbag inflator ruptures for more than 15 years. Over the past decade, more than 67 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled in the United States by 19 manufacturers and more than 100 million worldwide, the biggest auto safety callback on record and tied to more than 30 deaths worldwide.
This article contains reporting from Reuters.