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Kia Motors America has recalled over 500,000 vehicles because of airbag problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to the company dated June 7, 2018, stating they were acknowledging Kia’s recall.

The airbag problem stems from a potential defect in the airbag control unit (ACU), which could prevent frontal airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners from deploying. Should this occur during a crash, there is an increased risk of occupant injury and death.

NHTSA Investigates Reports of Faulty Airbag Controllers

Last March 2018, the NHTSA started investigating reports of four deaths and six injuries from crashes in Hyundai and Kia vehicles in which airbags did not deploy as expected. At that time, Hyundai had already recalled over 150,000 vehicles—model year 2011—because of a short circuit in the airbag controller that could prevent airbag deployment in an accident. Kia later expanded that recall to 580,000 vehicles, including the 2011 through 2013 Sonata and the 2011 and 2012 Sonata Hybrid.

The NHTSA looked into Kia 2012 and 2013 sedans, as well, because there was a possibility the company used the same airbag controller supplier as Hyundai. Hyundai actually owns large parts of Kia Motors, so the two companies often share parts and designs.

The airbag controllers are made by ZF-TRW. TRW Automotive is a supplier of automotive systems headquartered in Michigan. ZF Friedrichshafen (a German Car parts maker) acquired the company in 2015, and renamed it the ZF-TRW Automotive Holdings Group.

The airbag controller, or computer, typically detects a crash signal, then issues the commands needed to tighten the seat belt, deploy the airbag, and prepare for a crash. According to reports from USA Today, ZF-TRWairbagg controllers can develop a short circuit so that they are unable to send these commands. The New York Times adds that these controllers “may be susceptible to electrical overstress,” which would prevent them from acting properly.

Nearly 1.1 Million Vehicles Affected by Recent Recalls

Back in 2016, there was another recall related to the same issue by Fiat Chrysler. They recalled more than 1.4 million vehicles because of a similar problem in which the airbags weren’t deploying. An investigation determined that the airbag controllers were made by ZF-TRW. The NHTSA is continuing to investigate all vehicles with the same airbag controllers.

Of the six crashes that spawned the investigation, four occurred in Hyundai Sonatas and two in Kia Fortes. Kia’s latest recall involves the following vehicles:

  • Kia Forte (2010-2013)
  • Kia Forte Koup (2010-2013)
  • Kia Optima (2011-2013)
  • Kia Optima Hybrid (2011-2012)
  • Kia Sedona (2011-2012)

Between Kia and Hyundai, nearly 1.1 million vehicles have been recalled over this issue and there may be more. So far, Kia doesn’t have a repair yet, but they are working on it, and plan to have a remedy ready by the end of July 2018. Owners can contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542.

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