In some Kia and Hyundai cars air bags have not inflated when a vehicle crashes and four people have died. The road safety agency of the U.S. wants to know the reason why this has happened.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was investigations the problems that affect up to 425,000 vehicles made by the South Korean automakers. The NHTSA also said it was looking into if the same problem could take place in vehicles that other companies make.
In documents it posted on its own website Saturday, the agency said that the probe covers the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the Kia Forte for 2012 and 2013. The agency added that it is in possession of reports from six front end crashes that caused significant damage to the vehicles with four people killed and six injured.
The problem was traced back to shorts in electrical circuits in the control computers that operate the air bag made by ZF-TRW, a parts supplier.
The NHTSA now wants to know if other carmakers have used that same computer.
On February 27, a recall of close to 155,000 Sonatas was made by the company because of failures with air bags, which Hyundai said it traced back to short circuits in the control computers for the air bags.
Kia, the sister car maker of Hyundai, which sells vehicles that are very similar, has not yet issued any recall. Neither deaths nor injuries were disclosed in the recall documents of Hyundai.
A spokesperson for Hyundai said that the problem occurred in high-speed collisions that were head on that had been offset from the vehicle’s center. It is unusual for that kind of collision to take place, said the spokesperson.
Dealers are considering giving out loaner vehicles to owners of cars until the problem is repaired, said the spokesperson.
Hyundai said in a prepared statement that the control circuitry for air bags was damaged during three crashes and in another was being investigated.
The NHTSA said that Hyundai had carried out an investigation and determined the problem had been an electrical overstress in the computer. A fix for that was not developed at that time but said that it was investigating the ZF-TRW problem. Hyundai doesn’t have a fix for this problem, but did say it does expect the recall of the Sonata to begin April 20.