Fiat Chrysler recalling 1.5m vehicles for airbag issue

By Graeme Roberts | 16 September 2016

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling 1.9m vehicles worldwide for an airbag defect linked to three deaths and five injuries.

Reuters noted this was the latest in a series of large-scale airbag recalls, as the auto industry grapples with a widening array of problems from potentially unstable inflators to bad software.

The Fiat Chrysler recall involves non-deployment of airbags and seat belt pretensioners in some crashes, the news agency said. It affects 1.4m US vehicles sold between 2010 and 2014, including the Chrysler Sebring, 200, Dodge Caliber, Avenger, Jeep Patriot and Compass SUVs.

"There is a hypersensitivity now in the industry to vehicle safety," Scott Upham, of Valient Market Research, told Reuters. Automakers continue to tweak air bag software, he said, noting that there is "a fine line between telling the bag when to deploy or not" in some situations.

Last week, General Motors said it would recall nearly 4.3m vehicles worldwide due to a software defect that can prevent air bags from deploying, a flaw already linked to one death and three injuries. That defect is similar but not identical to the Fiat Chrysler issue.

Fiat Chrysler said the problem occurred when vehicles equipped with a particular control module and specific front impact sensor wiring are involved in certain collisions.

GM said in its recall that the module that controls air bag deployment has a software defect that may prevent frontal air bags from deploying in certain "rare circumstances."

Fiat Chrysler told Reuters it no longer uses the occupant restraint controllers or wire routing design. The notice did not say when it will begin recall repairs, which spokesman Eric Mayne said the automaker is "finalising".

The report noted that, in July 2015, NHTSA fined Fiat Chrysler $105m for mishandling nearly two dozen recall campaigns covering 11m vehicles. In December, NHTSA separately fined the automaker $70m for failing to report vehicle crash deaths and injuries since 2003.