Federal government trying to force recall of millions of airbags that explode, hurl shrapnel

ATLANTA — The federal government is now taking steps to force a company to recall millions of airbags that could explode and injure or kill people.

The company, ARC, is refusing to recall the 52 million airbag inflators that are exploding and hurling shrapnel.

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has made an initial decision that the inflators are defective.

A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5. The hearing is required before they can order a recall.

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ARC maintains that no safety defect exists.

Neither ARC nor the auto industry has released a full list of vehicle models with faulty airbag inflators.

At least 12 vehicle manufacturers use the arc inflaters and 33 million vehicles are believed to contain them.

In May, Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray showed us what happened to one woman after her car’s airbags left her seriously hurt -- more specifically, the inflater manufactured by ARC.

Shrapnel ejected out when the airbag deployed hitting her in the head and neck.


At the time, her attorney told Gray that she was still breathing out of a tracheotomy tube from the explosion, in March.

“The shrapnel into her neck destroyed her jaw, knocked out multiple teeth,” attorney Andrew Parker Felix said at the time.

NHTSA is trying to force ARC to recall inflators in driver and passenger front airbags from at least a dozen automakers. Neither ARC nor the auto industry has released a full list of vehicle models with the kind of air bag inflators that have exploded. But at least 33 million of the 284 million vehicles on U.S. roads are believed to contain them.

Owners of vehicles made by at least a dozen automakers — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Ford, Toyota, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Hyundai and Kia — are left to wonder anxiously whether their vehicles contain driver or front passenger inflators made by ARC.

Though ARC is resisting a full-scale recall, automakers have conducted seven smaller recalls of inflators since 2017 that were attributed to isolated manufacturing problems. Those recalls included one that General Motors announced in May involving nearly 1 million vehicles.

When there is a recall, it’s easy to know if you are impacted. You look on your car for the VIN And pop it into the NHTSA database.

But that’s the issue right now, without a recall it’s impossible to know if your vehicle has one of these ARC devices installed.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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