Airbags in some Kia and Hyundai vehicles have failed recently to inflate in crashes and four people have been killed. Now the National HIghway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to get to the bottom of why this is happening. The agency is in the midst of a large investigation pertaining to at least 425,000 vehicles made by the automakers based in South Korea. The NHTSA also is looking into if the same problem could affect vehicles manufactured by other companies.
According to documents posted to the NHTSA website over the weekend, the agency stated the probe is regarding 2011 Hyundai Sonata cars and the 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts. The NHTSA also stated it has reports of six frontal crashes with major damage to the vehicles.
Recall Ordered for Hyundai Vehicles
Both companies have been in the process of deciding if the affected vehicles should be recalled. In February, Hyundai made the decision to recall 154,753 Sonata cars. Kia is Hyundai’s sister company and it has also confirmed the problem is due to a short circuit in the air bag control computers.
In a Saturday statement, Kia reported that it has yet to confirm any non deployments of airbags in its 2002-2013 Kia Forte models due to the computer issue. The car makers stated that it will work closely with NHTSA investigators to determine if a recall for the airbag problem should be performed.
Four people were killed and six were injured in the affected vehicles when the airbags did not deploy in an accident.
Problem Traced to Electrical Overstress
The problem with the airbags has been traced to what is known as electrical overstress condition or EOS. This can occur when an electronic device has a level of voltage or current that is beyond a certain limit. In the cases of these accidents, the device affected airbag control units that were supplied by the part manufacturer ZF-TRW. The airbag control units in the Hyundai vehicles are responsible for detecting crashes, and control how and if the airbag will be deployed. The same units control whether seat belts are tightened in anticipation of a car accident. NHTSA documents also report the agency know that 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortess are being investigated due to the same problems with the airbag control units.
According to Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor, the problem with the airbags can occur in rare high speed, head on crashes that were offset from the vehicle’s center. This type of collision, while rare, can cause the airbag problem to manifest, and can lead to serious and/or fatal injuries.
The agency states that Hyundai conducted a lengthy investigation and determined the problem was overstress to the computers that control the airbag. NHTSA noted that the Kia Forte is also under investigation for a similar airbag control computer that is manufactured by ZF-TRW. The NHTSA noted three years ago that a recall that involved more than 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles had a similar issue that caused the airbags to not properly deploy.
The agency notes that four of the crashes happened in Sonatas and two in Fortes. One of the crashes in the Forte happened in Canada, and all six crashes were reported between 2012 and 2017, but it is unclear exactly when they happened.
Hyundai and Kia Under NHTSA Scrutiny Before
This is not the only time that both automakers have been scrutinized for serious safety problems. In 2017, both companies were examined by the NHTSA to determine if they had acted fast enough to recall up to 1.6 million cars and SUVs that were prone to stalling. NHTSA stated at the time that a failure of this kind can greatly increase the odds of an accident.
Airbag Lawsuits and Settlements Common
Airbag recalls have become more frequent in recent years. The biggest auto recall in US history involved 50 million of the devices made by Takata for 37 million vehicles across most large automakers in the world. Those airbags, which malfunctioned by exploding and sending deadly shrapnel into the occupants of the vehicle, are connected to at least 13 deaths in the US and 200 injuries. Takata agreed earlier this year to pay up to $650 million to settle claims in 44 states for its defective airbags that can explode during accidents. The recalls of Takata airbags have led to more than $1 billion in settlements from various automakers, such as Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, Nissan, BMW and Honda.
There have not yet been any lawsuits related to this specific airbag problem and recall with Hyundai and Kia vehicles. But if you think that you or a loved one have been affected, you should pursue legal avenues immediately.
Seek Legal Help
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a defective airbag in a Hyundai or Kia vehicle, it is important to speak to a qualified airbag lawsuit attorney. You could be entitled to financial damages for your pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. Please contact us today about the details of your airbag injury case.
Other Recent Auto Recall News
Given the sheer size of the international and domestic auto market, there are usually large safety recalls in effect for many auto manufacturers. Below are some of the other recent auto recall stories that have hit the news in recent months:
- Ford Recalls 1.4 Million Cars For Loose Steering Wheels – Ford Motor Company is going to recall almost 1.4 million Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans in the US and in North America because of loose bolts that may allow the steering wheel to come loose. Ford states that it is aware of two accidents due to the steering wheel problem and one person was injured. The investigation into the auto safety recall began in October. 2017. For noted that the steering wheel bolt may come loose over time. This can lead to a detachment of the wheel and total loss of vehicle control. The recall is for Fusions and MKZs from 2014 to 2018. Dozens of owners of Fusions have complained to the NHTSA about a loose steering wheel.
- Auto Recalls Hit a Four-Year Low, But Still More Than Vehicles Sold – It seemed to industry observers that barely a week went by in 2017 without a major vehicle recall. The first recalls were for Honda and Land Rover last year, while the last recall was announced at the end of December. Still, the number of automotive recall units fell to 30.7 million last year. This is the fewest number of models taking back their vehicles for safety reasons since 2013. If you want to see if your vehicle has been recalled, go to the NHTSA website at SaferCar.gov.
- Fiat Chrysler Recalls 270,000 Ram Trucks For Fuel Tank Problem – Fiat Chrysler has voluntarily recalled 270,000 older pickup trucks in the United States after a report was issued by the company stating that the gas tank brackets on some vehicles may erode and cause tank sagging. The recalls will affect 270,254 trucks in the US and 26,676 in Canada. It covers Ram 1500 trucks from 2009 to 2012. The company stated it does not know of any injuries, fires or fuel leaks because of the sagging tank, but it launched the auto safety recall out of an abundance of caution.