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Air Bag Company Refuses Recall Despite Federal Request

An air bag company argued on June 20 that it cannot say for sure whether its inflators might cause further such incidents.

ARC Automotive based in Knoxville Tenn., has a history of defective air bags, eight incidents involving two deaths and seven injuries have been recorded from the company.

In a response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company stated that even if they were to comply with the industry quality standard, they cannot fully eliminate the risk of occasional failures in which the air bag inflator might explode and spew shrapnel.

Neither ARC and NHTSA have released a full list of vehicle models with the kind of air bag inflators that have exploded. But at least 33 million vehicles on the road are believed to contain them.

The air bag company refuses a full-scale recall due to insisting there are no safety defects and that NHTSA’s demands are based on a hypothesis and not legitimate technical conclusions. 

“Even with appropriate industry standards and efforts by manufacturers to minimize the risks of failures, the manufacturing processes may not completely eliminate the risk of occasional or isolated failures,” ARC wrote in its reply.

The company went on to argue that the federal motor vehicle safety act “does not require vehicles and equipment to never experience a failure in the field. Rather the Safety Act seeks to protect the public against unreasonable risks.”

In response to another question, ARC acknowledged that it hasn’t notified any customers that its inflators are expected to occasionally explode. But it said that during NHTSA’s eight-year investigation into the inflators, air bag makers, automakers and the government have been informed of any unexplained ruptures on the roads.

“The risk of manufacturing anomalies cannot be completely ruled out in any mass production process,” ARC wrote.

ARC claims they do not possess the relevant data to estimate how many inflator ruptures will occur on the road.

NHTSA said in a statement that it would give ARC “the opportunity to present information, views and arguments showing that there is no defect or that the defect does not affect motor vehicle safety.”

The air bag inflator company has noted in the past that no automaker has found a defect common to all 67 million inflators and that no root cause of the inflator ruptures has been identified.

ARC provides air bag inflators to some of the United State’s most popular automotive brands, including Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Ford, Toyota, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, and Hyundai.

Because ARC supplies inflators that are included in other manufacturers’ air bags, there’s no easy way for vehicle owners to determine whether their inflators are made by ARC.

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