U.S. Steps Up Probe of 12.3 Million Faulty Airbag Controllers

April 23, 2019 at 1:25 PM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has upgraded a year-old investigation into an electrical flaw in 12.3 million TRW Automotive airbag controllers linked to eight fatalities.

The modules were installed in various 2010-2019 model vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi and Toyota. TRW was acquired by ZF Friedrichshafen AG in 2015.

Investigators with NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation say “electrical overstress” coming from a crash sensor at the front of the vehicle could prevent the control unit from activating airbags and seatbelt pretensions in a crash. The problem may have led to four deaths in Hyundai-Kia vehicles, three FCA models and one in a Toyota car, according to the agency.

FCA recalled 1.9 million vehicles worldwide, including 1.4 million in the U.S., three years ago to replace the affected TRW control unit and front impact sensor wiring. Last year Hyundai expanded a similar campaign to cover 580,100 cars in the U.S.

NHTSA says the scope of the defect has been difficult to define, because it depends upon several design variables. The flawed behavior also is not documented by a vehicle’s crash data recorder.