Remember the big recall of vehicles with Takata airbags are few years ago that involved millions of vehicles – and the problems finding the current owners of those vehicles? Search for “Takata” on this site. Well, now there is a new issue with other airbags from another manufacturer that is causing concern.
The Takata airbags had a manufacturing quality issue with bags made in a Mexican factory. It wasn’t a problem with the workers assembling the units, rather it was the chemicals used in the airbag. The company found that the chemicals would react to moisture prior to being used and then would sometimes deploy with such huge force that shards of metal or plastic would hit the vehicle occupants.
Now, US manufactured airbags from TRW are under scrutiny, especially fitted to cars from the 2010 model year to current vehicles. The issue is not the same as the Takata one rather it is an electrical one. ZF Friedrichshafen, more famous for their gearboxes, now owns TRW and during regular testing found that the units could be under “electrical stress” which in turn meant that the units could fail to deploy. ZF-TRW notified the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in the US and the affected manufacturers such as Honda, FIAT Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia, Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Initially it was thought that 425,000 vehicles were affected however with the widening of the model years, the amount was estimated by autonews.com as being up to 12.3 million! The crux of the issue is thought to be the wiring loom that connects the airbag unit to the crash sensor system. A statement from the NHTSA suggested that in a crash, a vehicle could send a larger jolt down the wiring that fries the circuitry of the airbag control unit which causes the failure of the unit to notify all the components in the system to do something, for example, deploying the airbag, tensioning the seat belts and any other safety procedure normally triggered by the impact. These units typically trigger the systems within 20 milliseconds when a lot happens to protect the occupants.
So far the investigations by the NHTSA and ZF-TRW are incomplete and they have to do further testing to isolate the core issue. If the issue is within the wiring, it might be a quick recall, because there are many suppliers who could manufacture new looms. Hyundai/Kia and FIAT Chrysler have already issued recall notices on some US based vehicles to deal with the issue as quickly as possible – not quick enough for the legal vultures who launched a class action lawsuit against Hyundai, Kia and ZF-TRW within a few days of the announcement of the recalls.
We call them “vultures” because a recent study by the Institute for Legal Reform showed that 86% of class action suits in the US provided no money for the group that put their name to the action – any monies awarded were soaked up by legal fees!
Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi have not yet announced a specific recall for this issue because they are waiting for more information from both the NHTSA and ZF-TRW. This is interesting in itself because the most recent fatal accidents – with at least one fatality potentially caused by the airbag – are actually late-model Toyota Corollas.
Here at Motoring Weekly, we will keep an eye on the progress of this issue.