Detroit (AFP) A second person was killed when an airbag inflator exploded, made by a company in Tennessee that has been under investigation by a federal agency for more than six years without any solution.
On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released recall documents filed by General Motors that revealed the second fatality, the driver of a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse SUV with an ARC bellows that exploded, releasing shrapnel. No details were given about the place and time of death.
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NHTSA said that ARC Automotive in Knoxville has manufactured about 8 million blowers that are used nationwide in vehicles made by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (now Stylantis), Kia and Hyundai.
Some auto safety advocates say the investigation has gone on for too long, an example of the deadly consequences for an understaffed and underfunded agency.
“The NHTSA should have done all of this a long time ago,” said Rosemary Chahan, president of the California-based Consumer Organization for Automotive Reliability and Safety. “There is no denying that it is a (safety) defect.”
The second death should not have occurred, Shahan said, and vehicles with the faulty ARC air inflators should have been recalled faster.
“It’s what keeps me awake at night, knowing that they often wait until a horrific death or injury occurs before they act,” she said.
Shahan said the agency was “severely underfunded,” but had to seek the recall of the ARC amplifiers. She said the NHTSA has historically taken little action during Republican administrations but has ramped up safety efforts when Democrats take control of the White House.
Wednesday messages were left seeking comment from NHTSA and ARC.
GM’s recall covers 550 Chevy Traverse SUVs from 2013 through 2017, as well as Buick Enclave SUVs from 2008 through 2017. The automaker said in a statement that defective front driver air bag inflators were either installed At the factory or replaced by air bag units.
GM documents released by NHTSA on Wednesday show that the company is recalling vehicles equipped with pumps from the same manufacturing group.
“We make safety recall decisions based on data,” spokesman Dan Flores said in an email. “Based on our investigation, this recall covers only the 550 vehicles included in this field procedure.”
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Customers will be notified about the return process by letters beginning around November 22nd.
GM previously said that 1.2 million of its cars have ARC blowers.
The NHTSA, the agency responsible for keeping US cars and roads safe, began investigating the ARC bellows in July 2015 after two people were injured by flying shrapnel. The investigation became even more pressing in 2016, when a Canadian woman who was driving an old Hyundai Elantra was killed by metal airbags shards.
Public records show only little progress in the investigation. In April, the agency published a note saying it was reviewing the amounts of information it had received from ARC.
ARC blowers are similar to dangerous devices made by the bankrupt Japanese company Takata. Both use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate bags in the event of an impact, and both can blast metal cans containing the chemical. But unlike Takata, ARC uses only ammonium nitrate as a secondary method to inflate the bags.
Ammonium nitrate can be damaged when repeatedly exposed to high temperatures and humidity, and can burn very quickly, making explosions larger.
At least 19 people were killed in the United States and 28 worldwide due to the Takata blower exploding. More than 400 infected in the United States
In the most recent summons, GM wrote that it discovered the death on September 2 and decided to do the recall on October 2. The documents say that the GM investigation did not identify any other rupture in the blower involving the vehicles involved in the recall.
In 2019, General Motors recalled 1,145 2010 and 2011 Chevrolet Malibu sedans after a driver injury was discovered with an ARC bellows exploding.
In the past, manufacturers have tried to limit the size of recalls, only to add more cars later as they did at the beginning of the Takata cases, said Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety.
“While allowing its 2015 achievement of dormancy, we hope that NHTSA will act on lessons learned from Takata’s experience with faulty pumps used by many manufacturers,” he said.
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