Maker of air bag inflators that regulators say pose a ‘risk of death’ refuses recall request

A Tennessee firm may very well be heading for a authorized battle with U.S. auto security regulators after refusing a request that tens of millions of probably harmful air bag inflators be recalled.

The Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration is demanding that ARC Automotive Inc. of Knoxville recall 67 million inflators within the U.S. as a result of they might explode and hurl shrapnel. At the very least two individuals have been killed within the U.S. and Canada, and 7 others have been damage on account of faulty ARC inflators, the company stated.

The recall would cowl a big portion of the 284 million autos now on U.S. roads, however the share is tough to find out. Some have ARC inflators for each the driving force and entrance passenger.

In a letter posted Friday, the company informed ARC that it has tentatively concluded after an eight-year investigation that ARC entrance driver and passenger inflators have a security defect.

“Air bag inflators that undertaking metallic fragments into automobile occupants, quite than correctly inflating the hooked up air bag, create an unreasonable threat of dying and damage,” Stephen Ridella, director of NHTSA’s Workplace of Defects Investigation, wrote in a letter to ARC.

However ARC responded that it no defect exists within the inflators, and that any issues are associated to remoted manufacturing points.

The following step within the course of is for NHTSA to schedule a public listening to. It may then take the corporate to court docket to drive a recall.

“We disagree with NHTSA’s new sweeping request when intensive area testing has discovered no inherent defect,” ARC stated in an announcement Friday night time.

Additionally Friday, NHTSA posted paperwork exhibiting that Common Motors is recalling almost 1 million autos geared up with ARC inflators. The recall covers sure 2014-2017 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia SUVs.

The automaker says an inflator explosion “might end in sharp metallic fragments hanging the driving force or different occupants, leading to severe damage or dying.”

Homeowners will probably be notified by letter beginning June 25, however no repair is obtainable but. They’ll get one other letter when one is prepared.

GM says it should provide “courtesy transportation” on a case-by-case foundation to house owners who concern driving autos which are a part of the recall.

The corporate stated that it’s doing the recall, which expands earlier actions, “out of an abundance of warning and with the security of our prospects as our highest precedence.”

One of many two deaths was a mom of 10 who was killed in what gave the impression to be an in any other case minor crash in Michigan’s Higher Peninsula in the summertime of 2021. Police experiences present {that a} metallic inflator fragment hit her neck in a crash involving a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse SUV.

At the very least a dozen automakers have the allegedly defective inflators in use, together with Volkswagen, Ford, BMW and GM, NHTSA stated.

The company contends that welding particles from the manufacturing course of can block an “exit orifice” for gasoline that’s launched to fill the air bag in a crash. Any blockage may cause stress to construct within the inflator, blowing it aside and hurling metallic fragments, Ridella’s letter says.

However in a response to Ridella dated Might 11, ARC Vice President of Product Integrity Steve Gold wrote that NHTSA’s place shouldn’t be based mostly on any goal technical or engineering conclusion a few defect, “however quite conclusory statements relating to hypothesized blockage of the inflator orifice from ‘weld slag.’”

He wrote that welding particles has not been confirmed because the trigger in any of the seven inflator ruptures within the U.S. ARC contends that solely 5 have ruptured whereas in use, and that “doesn’t assist a discovering {that a} systemic and prevalent defect exists on this inhabitants.”

Gold additionally writes that producers should do remembers, not gear producers like ARC. NHTSA’s recall demand, he wrote, exceeds the company’s authorized authority.

In a federal lawsuit filed final 12 months, plaintiffs alleged that ARC’s inflators use ammonium nitrate as a secondary propellant to inflate the air luggage. The propellant is pressed into tablets that may broaden and develop microscopic holes if uncovered to moisture. Degraded tablets have a bigger floor space, inflicting them to burn too quick and ignite too large of an explosion, in keeping with the lawsuit.

The explosion can blow aside a metallic canister housing the chemical, sending metallic shards into the cabin. Ammonium nitrate, utilized in fertilizer and as an affordable explosive, is so harmful that it may possibly burn too quick even with out moisture current, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs allege that ARC inflators have blown aside seven instances on U.S. roads and two different instances in testing by ARC. There have up to now been 5 restricted remembers of the inflators that totaled about 5,000 autos, together with three remembers by GM.