Automakers and drivers just can’t get a break from problems with defective air bags. Now automakers are recalling over 2 million vehicles to do a follow-up fix for bags that may inadvertently inflate while the car is running. The issue this time is a faulty electronic control unit.
The new recall involves Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and Honda vehicles and some of those vehicles are also involved in a separate, but ongoing, Takata air bag recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says this recall impacts 1 million vehicles from Toyota, 374,177 from Honda and 753,176 from Fiat Chrysler.
- 2002-03 Jeep Liberty and 2002-04 Jeep Grand Cherokees
- 2003-04 Honda Odyssey and 2003 Acura MDX
- 2003-04 Pontiac Vibe (made by Toyota); Dodge Viper; and Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix and Toyota Avalon.
The vehicles were first recalled from 2012 to 2014, but it turns out the initial fix didn’t solve the problem. The NHTSA says automakers still found some cases of inadvertent deployment in vehicles that were fixed. The agency reports about 400 inadvertent airbag deployments, but no deaths, in the affected vehicles. The number includes 39 deployments that were fixed under the initial recall, which involved installing filters or wire harnesses to protect a key circuit from electrical damage.
This time, automakers will replace the entire electronic control module, including the circuit involved in the inadvertent deployments, supplied by TRW Automotive Holdings. The NHTSA is seeking additional information about the defect.
“TRW is supporting its customers in these recalls fully, and will cooperate with NHTSA and provide information to the Agency if requested,” TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. said. The safety products supplier is in the process of being acquired by Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen AG in a deal valued at $13.5 billion. It is expected to close this spring.
NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind says replacement modules won’t be fully available until the end of 2015, but the agency wants consumers who have not yet repaired their vehicles under the initial remedy to do so, and then return to their dealer a second time for the replacement module when they are available.
“This is going to be complicated for consumers because all of these vehicles were previously recalled to fix the inadvertent deployment problem. That fix does significantly decrease the chance of an inadvertent deployment, but the remedy from those previous recalls is not fully effective,” Rosekind said.
“We’re urging vehicle owners who have not yet gone into their dealer to do so for the remedy, even if this means that they’re going to have to make another trip later for a more effective fix.”
The agency issued a safety advisory urging consumers to take their vehicles to dealerships for repairs. The advisory included FAQs for owners of the recalled vehicles.
Airbags have been directly or indirectly related to several million U.S. recalls in the past year. For much of 2014, General Motors dealt with a faulty ignition switch in small cars that would result in airbags failing to deploy in accidents.
More than 24 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags have been recalled globally since 2008, according to Reuters estimates. At least six deaths have been linked to faulty airbag inflators made by Takata. Rosekind said nine of the newly reported inadvertent airbag deployments also involved a ruptured Takata airbag inflator, and three of those instances resulted in injuries.
“This makes it especially important for consumers to take action to prevent the inadvertent deployments that could cause serious injuries,” Rosekind said.
In a statement, Honda confirmed 374,000 of its vehicles are included in the U.S. recall: “Honda has received a small number of complaints of inadvertent airbag deployment in these vehicles after the original recall repair was completed. No crashes have been reported to Honda related to this issue.”
Chrysler, in its statement, said its recall would also include nearly 50,000 vehicles in Canada, about 22,000 in Mexico and more than 103,633 outside of North America. None of Chrysler’s recalled vehicles were equipped with Takata airbags, the automaker said.
Chrysler issued a recall for the problem in 2012, and “a small number of vehicles affected by the initial campaign (approximately 0.003 percent of the total) were subject to post-repair inadvertent air-bag deployments,” Fiat Chrysler said in its statement.
“Some vehicle occupants suffered minor injuries from contact with the air bags; FCA US is aware of a single related accident.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a statement, said: “We expect the manufacturers to get this remedy right to prevent injury to drivers and their families.”