The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced an investigation into defective airbag inflators manufactured by ARC Automotive, which is unaffiliated with Takata’s defective airbags.
According to NHTSA, nearly 420,000 older-model Fiat Chrysler Town and Country minivans, as well as about 70,000 Kia Optima sedans are equipped with the defective ARC airbag inflators under probe. Similar to the Takata airbag recall, the faulty ARC airbags may also explode upon impact, but not for the same reasons.
During a preliminary analysis, experts learned that the path used by inflator gas to exit the airbag may be blocked by an unknown object, causing the airbag to rupture from within and discharge metal shrapnel during an accident.
ARC responded to news headlines by stating that it intends to fully cooperate with NHTSA’s probe and has a 60-year record of “serving our customers with products that meet the most stringent global safety standards.”
In 2009, NHTSA received a complaint claiming that the ARC driver’s side airbag inflator in a 2002 Chrysler minivan severely injured a man’s wife. According to the complaint documents, the woman was turning into the couple’s driveway when a snowmobile collided with the 2002 Town and Country, causing the driver’s side airbag to violently eject metal shrapnel.
“Most of the shrapnel went into her chest, with the air bag plate breaking apart, striking her in the chin, breaking her jaw in three places,” the woman’s husband wrote in his complaint to the NHTSA. “If it hadn’t been for a great ambulance crew, she would have bled to death.”
Although safety regulators came to the conclusion that it was an isolated case, Kia reported to NHTSA last month about a recent lawsuit involving a 2004 Kia Optima with another ARC driver’s side inflator. It was then that the NHTSA decided upon opening an investigation into what was causing these dangerous incidents.
Since Delphi Corp. sold the defective ARC airbag inflators to both Kia and Chrysler, the company will be responding to any NHTSA inquiries throughout the investigation.