Sectors

Continental Automotive Systems faces air-bag crisis; recalls 5 million vehicles

February 5
11:30 PM 2016

Continental Automotive Systems has detected major flaws in their systems controlling air-bag deployment. The problem has been traced back to five years, for which the company plans to recall more than 5 million affected vehicles all over the world under major automotive brand names.

Continental Automotive, a German-based unit of Continental AG, informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about this issue, as per Automotive News. It mentioned that the electronic systems for air bags built during 2006-2010 and covering almost 5 million vehicles world-wide may fail to deploy during a crash or may inadvertently function without any reason. This is likely because the flaw allows moisture to enter the air-bag control systems resulting in corrosion and failure of power supplies.

All major brands like Honda, Fiat Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz have been alerted of this defect and they are currently in the process of recalling the models sold within the stipulated timing. Continental spokeswoman, Mary Arraf, said that between 1.5 million and 2 million of such models are running in the US alone.

According to Reuters, Honda Motor Co. has found two reported cases of injury due to this problem and is recalling 341,000 Accord models from 2008-2010. The automaker has received 1,575 warranty claims and 83 field reports along with the news of injuries. Another 74 cases of air-bag-related damages have surfaced but they are yet to be confirmed.

At the same time, Fiat Chrysler is recalling 112,000 in the US. It has already received complaints around 25 cases of air-bag malfunctioning. The models include 2009 Dodge Journey, 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country as well as 2009-assembled Volkswagen Routan. Additionally, last year because of the same issue, Mercedes had recalled around 126,260 C-Series cars from 2008-2009 and GLK350 models from 2010.

The supplier mentioned in its papers to the US regulators that after a minor complaint regarding air-bag warning light illumination, it received control unit from Daimler in 2008 that led to a design change in semiconductors. This was followed by another change in 2010 which was completed in 2011, whereafter the makers did not receive any complaints. This had affected almost 3 million units that were already manufactured before the design change.

However, NHTSA opened the investigation files in August 2015 after almost 19 complaints were filed for Honda Accords where the airbags failed to deploy. According to Fox News, an agitated customer wrote, "This also means that the safety of the vehicle passengers and operators are in jeopardy and potentially face serious injury or death."

Continental, as a supplier, can recall its defective units, but the actual recall needs to be made by the automakers. Arraf defended the company by saying, "All potentially affected customers were notified immediately and we are in close contact them." However, a complete recall list including the nameplates is not available yet nor is it very clear which manufacturers have already done the needful.  

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