Hyundai, Kia cars probed for faulty airbags

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Hyundai, Kia cars probed for faulty airbags

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating several Hyundai and Kia models for faulty airbags that could affect roughly 425,000 vehicles, the government agency said in a report Saturday.

The models under investigation include Hyundai’s 2011 Sonata and Sonata Hybrid sedans, as well as Kia’s 2012 and 2013 Forte sedans and Forte coupes. The probe comes after six crashes - four with the Sonata and two with the Forte - left four dead and six injured when the frontal airbags in those vehicles failed to deploy. The accidents took place between 2012 and 2017, though the agency did not provide exact dates.

Hyundai Motor suspects that electrical overstress shorted the computer system which controls airbag deployment, preventing it from inflating. The component was manufactured by a German auto parts supplier, ZF-TRW.

The U.S. government is looking into whether other automakers have used the same airbag control system and whether the same problem could occur with vehicles made by them.

Hyundai said in a statement that it found three out of four Sonata sedans had failures with the electrical circuit of the airbag control system and it is still probing the remaining model.

The automaker added that the short circuit problem occurs when a vehicle crashes at a “very high” speed and that such cases are “very rare.” There is no present way to solve the problem, the automaker said.

Hyundai earlier announced in February that it would recall 155,000 Sonatas starting April 20, citing the same airbag problem, and promised to offer alternative vehicles for owners to use until the repair work is complete.

The investigation launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to raise the number of vehicles that Hyundai might have to recall.

Kia Motors has yet to announce a recall plan. The automaker affiliated with Hyundai said in a statement on Saturday that it did not find any airbag problems caused by a short circuit and would administer a recall “when the measure is considered appropriate.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Kia’s Forte models have a similar airbag control unit built by the German supplier as the one in the problematic Sonatas.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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