Federal regulators now fear that the problem with airbag inflators may go beyond those manufactured by Takata Corp.
According to an Associated Press news report, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into inflators made by ARC Automotive Inc. that went into about 420,000 older Fiat Chrysler Town and Country minivans and another 70,000 Kia Optima midsize sedans.
This investigation comes just weeks after Takata agreed to recall 33.8 million inflators in the U.S. in what has been the largest automotive recall in American history.
So far, eight people have been killed worldwide and more than 100 have been injured as a result of flying shrapnel from Takata inflators.
The Problem with Airbag Inflators
In December, NHTSA received a complaint about a 2009 incident in a 2002 Chrysler minivan. But, they determined at the time that it was an isolated case involving an ARC driver’s side inflator.
In June, Kia alerted the agency about a lawsuit involving a 2004 Optima with an ARC driver’s side inflator. So, the agency decided to launch a probe. NHTSA investigators say it is not know now if there is a common root cause for both these investigations.
The agency is in the process of collecting facts from the suppliers and automakers involved. Two people were injured in those two incidents, but no fatalities were reported.
In one of the cases in Ohio, a woman was injured by flying airbag shrapnel most of which went into her chest. The airbag plate broke apart hitting her in the chin and breaking her jaw in three places.
The Need for a Solid Investigation
ARC’s inflators use an inert gas to fill the airbag, which is supplemented by an ammonium nitrate-based propellant. A preliminary analysis of the Chrysler minivan system showed that the path for the gas to exit the inflator might have been blocked by an unknown object.
In the Takata cases, ammonium nitrate is the main propellant and it can become unstable over time when exposed to high humidity and temperatures.
Takata and NHTSA are also in the process of figuring out precisely what causes the malfunctions.
In both cases – Takata and ARC — there is a need for a thorough investigation. These are extremely dangerous defects that could result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities as evidenced in so many cases.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a defective Takata or ARC airbag inflators, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the airbag inflators as well as the automaker.
Please contact an experienced auto defect law firm to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.