Federal Regulators Investigate Four Deaths Linked to Airbag Failure in Hyundai and Kia Vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into why four people died after airbags in some Hyundai and Kia vehicles failed to inflate during car accidents. NHTSA investigators say they are looking into problems that could affect as many as 425,000 cars made by the Korean car manufacturers. The agency is also looking into whether these airbag defects are prevalent in vehicles manufactured by other automakers.
Injuries and Fatalities Linked to Airbag Issue
The safety agency posted documents on its website detailing the probe stating it covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts. The agency says it has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage to the cars. Four people died and six suffered injuries. Investigators have tracked down the problem to electrical circuit shorts in airbag control computers manufactured by supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA is also looking into whether other automakers have used the same computer.
Last month, Hyundai recalled about 155,000 Sonatas for airbag failures, which was traced back to a short circuit in the airbag control computers. Kia, Hyundai’s sister company, has yet to issue a recall. Hyundai has not disclosed any injuries or fatalities in its recall documents, which NHTSA posted on its website in early March. A spokesman for Hyundai said the problem only occurred in rare, high-speed head-on crashes that were offset from the center of the vehicles. Hyundai said in a statement that the airbag control circuitry was damaged in three crashes and a fourth crash is still under investigation.
NHTSA stated that Hyundai didn’t have a fix for the airbag failures and that it was investigating the problem with ZF-TRW. In addition to airbag failure, the problem could also prevent seatbelts from tightening before a crash. The Kia Fortes under investigation use similar computers made by ZF-TRW. Four crashes occurred in Sonatas and two in Fortes. All were reported to NHTSA between 2012 and 2017.
Automakers and Timely Recalls
As auto defect lawyers, it is hardly surprising to us that these automakers are dragging their feet on a recall when lives have been lost due to defective vehicles. NHTSA investigations could take years to be completed. We hope federal officials will hold these automakers accountable for failing to quickly move on these recalls. This is nothing new for the Korean automakers. In May 2017, NHTSA opened an investigation into whether Hyundai and Kia acted quickly enough to recall more than 1.6 million cars and SUVs for engine stalling that could result in a car accident. However, nothing has come out of that probe yet.
When automakers fail to report safety defects in a timely manner, it is the consumers who pay the ultimate price. If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost a loved one as the result of a defective auto, please remember that you have legal rights. Contact an experienced auto product liability attorney to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.