California motorists may have heard that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an investigation in July 2015 after reports emerged of people being injured by flying shrapnel from airbag inflators during traffic accidents. The investigation centered on ARC Automotive, which had developed the airbag inflators. In the course of the investigation, the NHTSA estimated that 8 million Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Kia vehicles in the United States had the airbag inflators in question.
In 2016, a woman in Canada was killed after being hit with shrapnel from the airbag inflator while driving a Hyundai. Though the death made the investigation urgent, public records show that no conclusions were made or solutions offered. Another injury occurred in a General Motors vehicle in September 2017 due to an exploding ARC inflator. The president of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a California-based company, is calling out the federal investigators for taking so long in the probe.
The airbags in question are similar to those produced by the Takata Corp. of Japan. This now-bankrupt company was linked to at least 23 deaths worldwide. Both types of airbags use ammonium nitrate as the explosive that causes the airbags to inflate. The NHTSA announced that 1,145 vehicles made by General Motors would be recalled in order to investigate and fix the faulty airbags.
Car manufacturers and the companies that produce parts for the car manufacturers have a duty of care for those who will purchase the vehicles. This means that they are legally obligated to act accordingly if a problem has occurred. In this case, both ARC Automotive and the car manufacturers failed to address the issue with the airbags in a timely manner after serious injury and death occurred to the occupants. Therefore, they could be held responsible for damages if a civil suit is pursued.