One year after a class action lawsuit alleged three automakers and a parts manufacturer knowingly sold vehicles with exploding airbags that killed two and injured four others, ARC Automotive Inc. says it will not recall its product as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demands.
Eight-Year NHTSA ARC Airbag Investigation Calls for a Major Airbag Recall
Following an eight-year investigation, NHTSA has concluded that ARC front driver and passenger airbag deflators have a safety defect that can cause them to explode.
According to the letter sent to ARC, “Air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached air bag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury.”
One of the airbag deaths includes a mother of 10 who was killed in a minor fender bender in Michigan in the summer of 2021. Police reports indicate a metal inflator fragment from her 2015 Chevrolet Traverse hit her in the neck.
NHTSA’s investigation found that welding debris created during the manufacturing process can block an exit orifice for gas release, causing pressure to build up and a subsequent explosion.
Furthermore, the class action lawsuit contends that ARC inflators use ammonium nitrate tablets as a secondary propellant to inflate the airbags, which can degrade with moisture exposure, causing them to burn too quickly and explode.
The lawsuit alleges that ARC inflators have blown apart at least seven times on U.S. roads and during two previous safety tests, meaning that the airbag and auto manufacturers are well aware of the potential deadly risks to consumers.
ARC Automotive Refuses to Accept Responsibility, Potentially Putting Motorists at Risk
ARC Automotive Inc., contends that it is up to the manufacturers to initiate recalls, and that NHTSA is overstepping its legal authority to demand a call from ARC.
However, auto safety advocates say the case mirrors the Takata airbag ordeal of the early 2000s that ultimately killed 28 people and caused hundreds more injuries before the recall went out. In fact, the US government is now placing pressure on ARC and will require the company to answer questions under oath and will receive threatening fines if it does not respond by June 14, 2023. If ARC does not respond by then they will face a potential fine of up to 13.6 million dollars and possibly criminal penalties.
How the NHTSA ARC Recall Request Affects You: 3 Action Steps to Take Today
It can be frightening to think that, if your vehicle is involved in a minor accident, pieces of shrapnel from the airbag could explode and seriously injure —or even kill—the occupants.
1. Check your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
The vehicles with potentially dangerous ARC airbags include Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Buick, Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Hummer, GMC, Oldsmobile, Isuzu, Saab, Pontiac, Hyundai, Saturn, and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2001 and 2017.
You can visit NHTSA’s website and enter your vehicle’s 17-digit VIN (listed on the left of your car’s windshield and on your registration card) to determine whether your vehicle is affected.
2. Next, contact your dealership or manufacturer to find out if any remedies are available.
For instance, General Motors has announced a recall of nearly 1 million vehicles equipped with ARC inflators, including 2014-2017 Buick Enclaves, Chevrolet Traverses, and GMC Acadia SUVs.
The automaker claims it is doing so “out of an abundance of caution” after acknowledging that inflator explosions “may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants, resulting in serious injury or death.”
GM will begin sending letters to motorists starting June 25th and will send out a second round of letters once a fix is widely available. If you fear driving your vehicle, the company said it will offer “courtesy transportation” on a case-by-case basis in the meantime.
3. Speak to an experienced product liability attorney.
It’s a good idea to speak with legal counsel if your vehicle is included in the recall request. Talking to an experienced automobile products liability defect attorney can help you understand your full range of legal options. You may be entitled to legal compensation if your airbag is defective and you or a loved one were injured by a faulty ARC airbag inflator defect.
Contact an auto product liability lawyer at The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP. We have over 50 years of experience in all areas of personal injury litigation and have won billions for our clients.