In a public meeting on October 5, 2023, the U.S. government safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), discussed its decision for two airbag inflator manufacturers, ARC Automotive and Delphi Automotive Systems, to recall its airbag inflators that explode with excess pressure and shoot shrapnel into the frontal occupants. The public meeting was just one step on the long road for the NHTSA to officially recall the 52 million airbag inflators, which the agency hopes to have completed by early next year.
ARC vs. Takata Airbag Inflators
The NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation first opened its investigation into the ARC inflators (PE15-027) in July 2015 after it received reports of ruptures from two vehicles, roughly one year after the Takata airbag recall began in 2014. The Takata recalls began on an isolated group of Honda vehicles with early 2000s year models, then rapidly grew to 100 million inflators across the world. According to NHTSA, since the recall process began, roughly 27 people in the U.S. were killed and 400 injured due to the Takata airbags.
Currently, there are still thousands of vehicles equipped with the Takata airbag inflators that have not been brought in for repairs. For more information on the Takata airbag inflator recalls, click here.
As for the ARC inflators, according to the agency, since 2014, there have been seven inflator rupture crashes in the United States alone. Other incidents include a driver who was killed after a crash in a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse, a driver killed in a 2009 Hyundai Elantra during a 2016 crash in Canada, and a passenger in Turkey who suffered an injury after the passenger-side airbag inflator ruptured in a 2015 Volkswagen Golf that used an ARC inflator built in Tennessee.
All drivers, including one passenger, were injured primarily in the face, and four of the incidents involved a Traverse, the latest of which occurred on March 22, 2023. In May, for safety reasons, General Motors (G.M.) recalled roughly one million vehicles, some of which were the Traverse. Over the years, other motor vehicle companies like BMW and Volkswagen have also issued recalls for vehicles equipped with faulty airbag inflators, including the BMW X1 year models 2016-2017 and the Audi TT Roadster year model 2016.
The alleged defects of the ARC inflators, according to NHTSA, stem from a manufacturing problem. The weld slag could become dislodged and cause a blockage of the inflator exit orifice when the airbag deploys. "A blockage of sufficient size will cause over pressurization and rupture of the inflator, leading to the potential forced propulsion of shrapnel or metal fragments from the inflator into the passenger compartment." However, despite the evidence stacked against the inflators, ARC has adamantly fought back against the claims.
Steve Gold, vice president of product integrity for ARC, says the reports are "inaccurate and misleading," claiming ARC has not found a systemic defect across the 52 million inflators identified in this initial decision. Gold also claimed that the seven U.S. ruptures were "isolated incidents and not indicative of a systemic defect." Arguing that the Takata airbags were primarily affected by humidity and age, whereas the seven known defects in 23 years "do not represent increased risk over time."
Vehicle companies that have been implicated in the Takata and ARC recalls include the following:
- BMW of North America
- Fiat Chrysler (FCA) US
- Ford Motor Company
- General Motors
- Hyundai Motor America
- Kia America
- Maserati North America
- Mercedes-Benz USA
- Porsche Cars North America
- Toyota Motor North America
- Volkswagen Group of America
What's Next For the ARC Inflators?
The agency believes that ARC's argument that the root cause "has not been confirmed" or allegedly is not the cause of some of the ruptures is not a reason for delaying a recall. While ARC had run tests in 2018 of more than 900 inflators taken from 2001 through 2005 model-year cars in salvage yards and found no ruptures, multiple automakers reported ruptures in 2021 and 2023. According to Gold, ARC is a Tier 2 supplier and "is not legally responsible for initiating recalls like an automaker." However, in the NHTSA's initial decision letter this past September, it claimed that ARC is not exempt from complying with federal safety regulations.
So far, six class-action lawsuits have been filed in 2022 against ARC, various automakers, and two airbag manufacturers that used ARC inflators. The NHTSA is accepting written responses to its hearing until December 4, after which it will likely release a final decision regarding the ARC recall. Until then, victims who have suffered injuries or have lost a loved one due to the defective inflators can speak to an attorney to learn more about their legal options. For more information about the ARC and Takata airbag inflator recalls or to speak with an attorney, complete our free, no-obligation case evaluation form today.