The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated the recall citing a safety issue that can lead to ruptures during regular air bag deployments.   -  Photo: Markus Spiske

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated the recall citing a safety issue that can lead to ruptures during regular air bag deployments. 

Photo: Markus Spiske 

Update: Oct. 20, 2023

On Thursday, Oct. 5, U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials told a public hearing that the government should recall certain frontal driver and passenger air bag inflators manufactured by ARC and Delphi through January 2018 citing risk of explosion and the potential ejection of metal fragments into a car's interior, even in relatively minor collisions.

Delphi Automotive manufactured approximately 11 million of the inflators through 2004 under a licensing agreement with ARC, which manufactured the remaining 41 million inflators, according to Reuters. This would mean a total of 52 million air bag inflators would be recalled. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a new filing in early September, signaling its determination to address the issue. The agency deemed the inflators produced by ARC Automotive, based in Tennessee, and its licensee Delphi Automotive Systems, as fundamentally defective.

The agency stated that the rupturing air bag inflator poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants. At least seven people have been injured and one person has been killed by these rupturing air bag inflators within the U.S., according to the NHTSA's records.

The NHTSA initially called for a voluntary recall back in May, but ARC Automotive declined to comply. Instead, the company accused the regulator of exceeding its authority and dismissed the inflator ruptures as "occasional or isolated failures." The NHTSA, however, maintains its stance that approximately 52 million air bag systems manufactured by ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive pose a potential danger to vehicle occupants and necessitate a recall.

Aftermath of an Eight-Year Investigation

Following an extensive eight-year investigation, the NHTSA has officially declared the air bag inflators produced by ARC and Delphi as defective. This marks the initial step in the agency's process to compel both companies to recall these automotive components. Subsequently, NHTSA officials have scheduled a public hearing for October 5 to delve deeper into the inflator issue and can then proceed to pursue a court-ordered recall.

Affected vehicles equipped with these potentially hazardous air bag systems range from models manufactured between 2000 and 2018 by prominent automakers such as BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen, according to NHTSA documents.

The NHTSA stated, "These air bag inflators may rupture when the vehicle's air bag is commanded to deploy, causing metal debris to be forcefully ejected into the passenger compartment of the vehicle." Consequently, the agency concluded that a rupturing air bag inflator presents an unreasonable and severe risk of injury or death to vehicle occupants.

Government Fleet has reached out to ARC for comment. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated on Oct. 10, 2023 with new information regarding the hearing.

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