In addition to requiring ARC Automotive to provide answers to questions under oath and threatening fines if it doesn’t, the US government is applying more pressure on the firm to recall 67 million potentially harmful air bag inflators. NHTSA claims that the recall is necessary because ARC inflators, which have the potential to burst violently and launch shrapnel, have caused two deaths and at least seven injuries in the US and Canada.
The explosions, which began in 2009, have persisted up until this year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s special order raises several concerns, including whether ARC anticipates any of its inflators to rupture in the future and whether it has warned customers of the danger.
The inflators, which can blow apart a metal canister, are being recalled by ARC Automotive Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, at the request of the agency.
However, ARC is resisting, potentially leading to a legal dispute.
The agency lacks the jurisdiction to require a component manufacturer to conduct recalls, according to ARC, which contends that there is no safety flaw and that the NHTSA’s demand is based on an assumption rather than technical findings.
The inflators are faulty, according to a preliminary finding by NHTSA.
A final judgment, a public hearing, and even a lawsuit asking a judge to mandate a recall are the next stages.
People who ride in at least 33 million U.S. vehicles may be at risk because ARC inflators can be found in both the driver’s and passenger’s front air bags.
In the order, NHTSA requests that ARC provide an explanation if it anticipates that inflators would burst due to causes other than “random, ‘one-off’ manufacturing issues.
The company’s isolated production issues have already resulted in the recall of more than 1 million ARC inflators.
It further requests that the business determine the number of inflators that will rupture while being used in the United States in the future, and it queries ARC as to why it modified its inflator manufacturing procedure in 2018 to include a scope that checks for the possibility of welding debris obstructing inflator vents.
According to NHTSA, welding byproducts during manufacture could choke a vent inside the inflator canister that is intended to let gas escape to quickly inflate air bags after an accident.
The canister may become so compressed that it is blown apart.
On Thursday, a notice asking for a response to the order was issued to ARC.
The business must respond by June 14 or risk a $131.6 million fine and maybe criminal charges.
The NHTSA is going back and making connections, according to Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Center for Auto Safety, to refute the claims made by ARC in its response to the recall request.
He claimed that the government appears to be attempting to get ARC to acknowledge the possibility of further inflator ruptures.
They are only asking for ARC to acknowledge that something similar might occur in the future, according to Brooks.
He claimed that the business will find it difficult to claim that there won’t be any further issues.
That there won’t ever be another inflator rupture? I’m not sure they can honestly make that claim, Brooks added.
“There’s a good chance that this kind of rupture will happen again. They might not be in great numbers.
Additionally, NHTSA wants to know why ARC added the scope to its production process in 2018 and which ARC employee gave the decision final approval.
“I think they’re trying to get at what ARC was basing that decision on and whether it suggests that there’s a defect in the population of inflators that were produced before that date,” said Brooks.
The agency stated that it is not aware of any inflators rupturing that were manufactured after the scope was fitted in its letter of recall request delivered to ARC in April.