The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may recall 52 million dangerous airbag inflators in 2024. This potential recall involves inflators manufactured by ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive Systems.
These components can rupture during deployment, posing a serious risk to vehicle occupants.
Investigation and initial decision
The NHTSA’s scrutiny of ARC inflators began in July 2015, triggered by reports of ruptures during the Takata airbag recall. Still ongoing, the Takata recall affected 100 million inflators, with at least 27 fatalities and 400 injuries reported in the U.S.
Recent findings and safety risks
The recent recall decision comes after seven inflator ruptures in U.S. crashes since 2014. Metal shards flew out of the airbags during a crash, severely or even fatally injuring occupants. The NHTSA estimates the risk of ruptures in future crashes at 1 in 370,000 based on 2.6 million reported deployments of ARC inflators.
Manufacturer responses and disputes
ARC, one of the manufacturers under scrutiny, disputes the comparison to Takata inflators. The company says these isolated incidents do not reflect a systemic defect. ARC claims its inflators are not affected by humidity and age, unlike Takata inflators.
Safety measures and standing orders
To address the issue, NHTSA issued a standing order to ARC in 2016, requiring the reporting of ruptures during manufacturing. In 2018, ARC began using borescopes to detect excess weld slag or debris in its inflators. Despite tests in 2018 showing no ruptures, automakers reported incidents in 2021 and 2023.
Potential recalls and class action suits
NHTSA’s September 2023 report listed 12 manufacturers whose vehicles could be subject to a recall, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen. Plaintiffs have also filed six lawsuits against ARC, automakers and other airbag manufacturers.
As the NHTSA proceeds with the recall process, the automotive industry faces another challenging chapter in addressing defective airbags. The agency will make a final decision about the recall after December 4, 2023.