Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles said Friday it will recall more than 1.25 million Ram pickup trucks to correct a software error that could cause the vehicle’s airbags and seatbelts to malfunction in a rollover crash.
The software glitch could disable the side airbags and seatbelt tension devices that protect motorists in a rollover caused by a significant underbody impact, such as running over debris on the road or driving off-road.
The company says the chances of such a malfunction occurring are small because a sequence of events was needed to cause such an accident, but the faulty code has been linked to one death and two injuries so far.
The recall covers 1.02 million 2013-16 Ram 1500 and 2500 pickups and 2014-2016 Ram 3500 pickups in the U.S. An additional 216,007 vehicles in Canada, 21,668 in Mexico, and 21,530 outside North America are also affected, Fiat-Chrysler said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the problem in December 2016 after it was notified of a lawsuit involving a 2014 Ram 1500 pickup in which the airbag failed to deploy during a rollover crash.
In the course of the investigation, Fiat-Chrysler told NHTSA that the computer modules could fail in the affected pickup trucks if the underbody of the truck was struck. If such an impact caused the truck to roll over, fatalities or injuries could result from the loss of airbag and seatbelt protection.
According to the New York Times, the flaw comes amid declining sales of Fiat-Chrysler brands in the U.S., which could have been spurred by previous defects.
“Fiat Chrysler’s reputation for safety and quality has been under intense scrutiny since 2015, when regulators levied a $105 million penalty against the company for failing to complete recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles, and an additional $70 million in fines for underreporting deaths and injury claims tied to potential defects,” the New York Times reported.
The recall is expected to start June 23.