US security agencies are investigating airbags in certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles that were not operational in head-on collisions involving four deaths and six casualties.
As many as 425,000 of the South Korean manufacturers could be affected, according to a investigation report that was published on the US website by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA is investigating whether vehicles from other manufacturers could be at risk.
The accidents are Hyundai sonatas and sonata hybrids from 2011 and Kia Forte and Kia Forte Koups from 2012 and 2013. Hyundai was almost recalled on February 27, 155,000 sonatas after finding that An electrical overload did not inflate the airbags during collisions. Hyundai is looking for product supplier ZF-TRW for a possible cause of the electrical problem.
Airbags are already associated with the largest and most complex automatic recall in US history – the one that eventually led to Takata Corp. in Japan, seeking legal protection from creditors after his devices were associated with at least 17 deaths. In contrast to the Takata situation, which included exploding airbags with shrapnel, the latest probe contains devices that could not be used at all.
The federal agency said it will work to determine if any other automaker uses airbag control units the same or similar to those supplied by ZF-TRW, and whether these units behave the same in similar crashes. A security expert said it was crucial to determine how widespread the problem is and if it's just a Hyundai and Kia problem.
"If there is one component in the module that is also used by other systems, that number could increase significantly." Keith Friedman, Vehicle Safety Researcher at Friedman Research Corp. in Austin, Texas, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "If it has to do with the way this particular module was made, it could be localized to those particular vehicles."
The Korean companies said they are cooperating in the probe. Hyundai Motor Co. "announces this recall now to ensure the safety of our customers," the company said in a statement. Kia Motors Corp. said it will work closely with NHTSA, including monitoring crash reports and conducting additional on-demand crash tests.
ZF TRW was founded when the German company ZF Friedrichshafen AG acquired TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. For more than $ 12 billion in 2015.
Takata has agreed last month to pay $ 650 million to settle claims in 44 states and the District of Columbia for defective airbags that explode in car accidents and hit metal shards , The company has recalled millions of airbags, the largest in history, which were associated with deaths and spurred complaints in more than $ 1 billion in settlements owned by automakers such as Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Subaru Corp. Mazda Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG.
Last week, US Consumers filed class actions with the Miami Federal Court to charge costs against units of General Motors and  Volkswagen as well as the Daimler-Benz Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler. The lawsuits allege that carmakers have deceived the public about the shortcomings and associated risks.
– With support from Christie Smythe, Steven Church and John Lippert