ARC Automotive has refused to recall 67 million airbag inflators after federal safety officials concluded that they pose a deadly safety risk.
At least 2 people died and 7 others were injured by metal shrapnel that shot out of the airbag when the inflator exploded, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The incidents occurred in the U.S. and Canada. One of the most tragic deaths occurred in August 2021 in Michigan, when a mother of 10 died after being hit by metal shrapnel in her neck after a minor crash.
ARC Automotive said the airbag inflators are not defective and blamed incidents on isolated manufacturing problems, setting up a legal battle that could end with the NHTSA forcing the company to issue a recall.
NHTSA investigators concluded that ARC airbag inflators are defective because welding debris can block an exit hole for the gases produced by the inflator, causing the metal canister to explode.
According to Stephen Ridella, director of the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation:
“Air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached air bag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury.”
Earlier this year, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against ARC Automotive and several auto-makers by plaintiffs who believe their vehicle’s airbags are defective.
Several auto-makers have already issued recalls for ARC airbag inflators, including General Motors (GM). The recall on May 10 followed an investigation into two reports of airbag ruptures in 2015 Chevrolet Traverse SUVs, including the death of a mother in Michigan.