Federal auto safety regulators are considering opening an investigation of allegedly defective side curtain airbags in certain General Motors vehicles that can fail to protect passengers in rollover crashes, citing an August 2011 crash in which three children were ejected from a 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigations said Monday it received a petition requesting an investigation of 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs.
The Detroit News reports that Donald Friedman of Xprts LLC, a Santa Barbara, Calif., engineering consulting firm, filed the petition in August. “The petition cites a 2011 Texas crash involving a model year 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe, which allegedly resulted in multiple occupants to be ejected,” NHTSA said in its announcement, adding that one of the three children thrown from the Tahoe was fatally injured.
The agency said its preliminary review of consumer complaint data revealed no similar reports of occupant ejections on 2007-2015 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon vehicles, which share a similar design. NHTSA may have decided to investigate the matter further as it responds to criticism for its enforcement failures and inadequate responses to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, exploding airbag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata, and ignition-switch failures in General Motors vehicles.
NHTSA’s failures may have contributed, in part, to the record recall of 64 million vehicles by automakers in the U.S. in 2014.
General Motors said that its own investigation of the Chevy Tahoe found no defect trend, but the company added it will cooperate with federal investigators. NHTSA’s probe in response to the petition would encompass nearly 60,000 vehicles.
“The Tahoe’s air bags are untethered, unlike some comparable SUVs, and its roof isn’t as sturdy, making it more likely that windows will shatter during a rollover,” Bloomberg reported, quoting Mr. Friedman.