Products Liability Law Daily Probe of 8 million ARC air bag inflators expanded after fatal crash in Canada
Friday, August 5, 2016

Probe of 8 million ARC air bag inflators expanded after fatal crash in Canada

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Following report of a fatal crash in Canada, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has upgraded its preliminary evaluation into possible ruptures of ARC Automotive Inc. (ARC) air bag inflators to an engineering analysis. ODI noted that as many as eight million of these inflators, which were manufactured in China, were sold for use in vehicles produced by Chrysler, GM, Kia and Hyundai for sale or lease in the United States (NHTSA ODI InvestigationNo. EA16-003, August 4, 2016).

ODI opened PE15-027 in July 2015 based on two injury incidents involving a driver air bag inflator rupture. One incident involved a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country that utilized a dual-stage air bag inflator. The other involved a 2004 Kia Optima that utilized a single-stage inflator. Both driver air bag inflators were manufactured by ARC, a tier-two supplier of automotive air bag systems, at their manufacturing facility in Knoxville Tennessee. All ARC driver air bag inflators are a hybrid design that fills the air bag by releasing an inert gas mixture stored in the inflator at high pressure. The gas mixture is augmented by an ammonium nitrate based propellant. The pressurized gas mixture and propellant are contained entirely within a hermetically sealed steel housing isolated from external atmospheric conditions.

During the course of its preliminary evaluation, ODI identified two additional affected vehicle manufacturers, General Motors and Hyundai. However, no additional field failures were reported to ODI by the vehicle manufacturers. Additionally, ODI received information from ARC regarding the design, manufacture and testing of the single- and dual-stage driver air bag inflators.

In July 2016, Transport Canada notified ODI of a fatal incident involving a driver air bag rupture in a 2009 Hyundai Elantra. It was determined that incident inflator had been manufactured by ARC and had ruptured in substantially the same manner as the two previous incidents known to ODI. The driver air bag module in the subject 2009 Hyundai Elantra utilized a single-stage inflator manufactured at ARC's facility in China. ARC confirmed that the inflator in the 2009 Hyundai Elantra was substantially the same design as the single-stage inflator in the 2004 Kia Optima and was assembled using substantially the same manufacturing process. ODI further confirmed that the U.S. market model 2009 Hyundai Elantra did not use the single-stage driver air bag inflator produced by ARC in China.

Because ODI did not know if any of the inflators manufactured in China during the relevant time period were used in vehicles produced for sale or lease in the United States, the investigation will focus on (1) determining the entire U.S. population of ARC manufactured driver air bag inflators, single- and dual-stage; (2) identifying affected vehicle manufacturers, and (3) discovering whether any single-stage driver air bag inflators manufactured at ARC's facility in China were used in vehicles produced for sale or lease in the United States. Additionally, ODI will conduct a program to recover the subject ARC inflators from vehicles in the field for further testing and evaluation in support of root cause analysis.

Companies: ARC Automotive Inc.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews

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