NHTSA Probes Hyundai and Kia Airbags Failing to Deploy

It appears parts supplier ZF-TRW may have made electric parts for the airbag computers which short-circuited. 

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The last thing you ever want to see while driving is your airbag. It’s a last resort of safety that only pops off when you’ve really hit something hard. But when you really need it, when there’s a head-on collision or something equally as heinous, it better be there for you. It’s for this reason that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating why some airbags in Hyundai and Kia cars are not inflating during accidents.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the NHTSA is investigating six front-end crashes with significant damage where airbags failed to deploy. The six crashes resulted in four deaths and six injuries. The probe covers the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, along with the 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte. Potentially an estimated 425,000 cars from the Korean automakers could be affected.

The NHTSA says the problem has been traced back to the electronics in the airbag control computers. The parts supplier ZF-TRW made parts which would up short-circuiting. The NHTSA wants to find out which other automakers used the same supplier.

This isn’t the first time this supplier has come under scrutiny. A 2016 recall of more than 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler cars and SUVs had a similar problem that was causing airbags not to deploy in vehicles which had airbag computers manufactured by ZF-TRW.

Just a few weeks ago, Hyundai issued a recall on about 155,000 2011 Sonatas for the same reason. The company still isn’t sure how it’s going to fix the problem but according to their posting on the NHTSA’s website, the remedy is under development. The recall is expected to begin April 20, 2018.

In the company’s defense, the type of high-speed head-on collision where the airbags failed to deploy is a very rare occurrence. During the crashes the NHTSA is probing, the head-on crashes happened off-center from the vehicles involved. Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said, “It's very unusual to have that kind of collision.”