NHTSA Opens Probe into Hyundai, Kia Airbag Issue

Airbag problem could extend beyond named makers.

by on Mar.19, 2018

The Kia Forte's airbag is subject to an investigation by NHTSA for the 2012–13 model years.

Less than a month after Hyundai declared there is a problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is investigating airbag problems affecting 425,000 Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

The agency is also looking to see if the problem – airbags not inflating during a collision – is affecting other automakers.

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Over the weekend, NHTSA said it was opening a query into 2011 Hyundai Sonata and 2012–13 Kia Forte vehicles. The move comes after the agency said it received reports that because of the problem in sixn instances, there have been four deaths and six injuries.

The problem appears to be related to electrical circuit shorts in airbag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA looking to see if other automakers used the same computer.

(Hyundai recalls 155,000 Sonatas for airbag issue. Click Herefor the story.)

Hyundai recalled 155,000 2011 model-year Sonata for an airbag problem.

Hyundai recently recalled nearly 155,000 Sonatas due to airbag failures; however, Hyundai’s sister automaker Kia has yet to issue a recall. Specifically, Hyundai believes a short circuit in the airbag control computer can stop the seat belts from tightening before a crash as well as prevent the airbags from deploying.

According to federal documents, there are four reports of airbags failing to inflate. It’s not clear if there are any injuries or deaths related to the problem. It affects vehicles produced between Dec. 11, 2009 and Sept. 29, 2010. Hyundai is still working on a fix for the problem but expects the recall to start on April 20.

However, the Kia has yet to issue a recall, telling the Associated Press, it has not confirmed any airbag non-deployments in its 2012–13 Kia Forte due to “the potential chip issue.” The automaker said it will work with NHTSA investigators.

(Click Here to see more about the next generation of the K900.)

“Kia will act promptly to conduct a safety recall, if it determines that a recall would be appropriate,” the company told AP. However, the complicating matter is with ZF-TRW.

ZF-TRW said in a statement that it is prevented by confidentiality agreements from identifying other automakers who bought its airbag control computers. The company said it is working with customers and supports the NHTSA investigation.

In documents related to the investigation, NHTSA said the Kia Fortes under investigation use similar airbag control computers as Hyundai with both being made by ZF-TRW. However, the agency also noted a 2016 recall involving more than 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler cars and SUVs that had a similar problem causing the airbags not to deploy. Agency documents show those vehicles had airbag computers made by ZF-TRW.

(Hyundai’s Le Fil Rouge concept pushes the design boundaries at Geneva. Click Here to check it out.)

NHTSA plans to evaluate the scope of Hyundai’s recall, confirm Kia’s use of the same or similar airbag control computers, examine the cause of the problem, and see if whether “any other vehicle manufacturers used the same or similar” ZF-TRW computers and endure airbag failures.

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