GM, Ford Say Proposed Airbag Recall Unjustified

Despite objections from supplier ARC Automotive and multiple automakers, NHTSA is pushing ahead and could act unilaterally to force a recall.

David Kiley, Senior Editor

December 21, 2023

2 Min Read
NHTSA may act unilaterally to recall airbags.

Several automakers are resisting regulators’ calls for an airbag recall that would replace up to 52 million regulators manufactured by ARC Automotive and cost as much as $10 billion.

General Motors and Ford have responded to NHTSA stating there’s no proof the parts are defective, despite reports that some inflators have exploded in a crash, injuring or killing vehicle occupants. NHTSA is calling for a broad recall based on those accident reports.

Despite objections from ARC and multiple automakers, NHTSA is pushing ahead and could take unilateral action.

The comment period for the proposed regulatory action ended Monday. The agency will make a final call on whether the parts are defective as soon as early 2024.

GM says in its response it disagrees with NHTSA’s position that the ARC airbags are defective, which, it says, “falls far short of the agency’s technical and procedural standards, especially in major defects enforcement cases.” 

But GM has already voluntarily recalled over 1 million ARC airbag inflators, undercutting the claim that the parts are not defective.

Ford, in its comment, says it has “serious concerns” about the scope of the recall, which would impact more than 2 million vehicles the automaker manufactured between 2005 and 2017. “Within those millions of Ford vehicles, there have been zero reported ruptures of ARC inflators in the field.”

ARC’s airbags are used in vehicles made by GM, Ford, Stellantis, Tesla, Volkswagen, Hyundai, BMW, Kia, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Toyota.

NHTSA is expected to be aggressive in its ultimate decision. The agency dealt with the unwieldy recall of tens of millions of Takata airbags starting in 2013 because they could explode when deployed, causing serious injury or even death.

A series of deaths and injuries associated with Takata airbags surfaced in accident reports and resulting data analysis. The Takata inflators were made in the supplier’s Mexico plant. An initial 3.6 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags were recalled, but ongoing deaths forced NHTSA to expand the recall to more than 42 million. The recall, costing nearly $25 billion, forced Takata into bankruptcy in 2017.

About the Author(s)

David Kiley

Senior Editor, WardsAuto

David Kiley is an award winning journalist. Prior to joining WardsAuto, Kiley held senior editorial posts at USA Today, Businessweek, AOL Autos/Autoblog and Adweek, as well as being a contributor to Forbes, Fortune, Popular Mechanics and more.

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