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General Motors is issuing a recall of nearly one million vehicles due to potentially faulty driver-side airbag inflators. This GM airbag recall could be the beginning of a larger problem. These faulty airbag inflators could explode and injure or kill the driver in several Gm SUVs.

What caused this new GM airbag recall to be issued?

2017 Chevrolet Traverse Driver-Side - The airbag in this steering wheel is the reason for the recent GM recall of nearly one million SUVs
2017 Chevrolet Traverse Driver-Side | Chevrolet

According to USA Today, GM notified the NHTSA in March of a crash involving a 2017 Chevrolet Traverse in which the front-driver airbag inflator ruptured during deployment. The driver suffered facial injuries during the crash. This is the second crash involving a GM SUV equipped with ARC Automotive Inc. airbags. The first involved a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse with the same airbag system.

Why are two crashes causing nearly one million vehicles to be recalled?

Although the ARC Automotive Inc. airbags are not behaving the same way the previously recalled Takata airbags behaved, caution is necessary to ensure the safety of vehicle owners on the road. This abundance of caution points directly to the previous Takata airbag recall in which inflators could rupture, catch fire, or explode even when the vehicle isn’t involved in a crash.

Which GM SUVs are being recalled?

Red 2017 Chevrolet Traverse SUV - This is one of the GM SUVs being recalled due to faulty ARC airbag inflators
2017 Chevrolet Traverse | Chevrolet

Each of the following models and inclusive model years has a front-driver airbag module with an ARC inflator installed as part of the original equipment. The fear is that these inflators may explode during deployment due to a manufacturing defect. The affected vehicles are:

  • 2014-2017 Buick Enclave – 244,304 SUVs
  • 2014-2017 Chevrolet Traverse – 457,316 SUVs
  • 2014-2017 GMC Acadia – 293,143 SUVs

Letters will begin to go to owners on June 25. Unfortunately, no fix is available to remedy the problem. Still, GM said it would offer “courtesy transportation” on a case-by-case basis to owners that fear driving vehicles that are part of this recall.

Is ARC Automotive Inc. facing any backlash from this GM airbag recall?

The NHTSA has directed ARC Automotive Inc. to recall 67 million inflators in the United States. The Knoxville, TN company is fighting this action claiming any problems related to the airbags are related to manufacturing issues with the installation of the airbags. ARC claims ‘weld slag’ could be the reason the inflators are blocked and could send shrapnel into a vehicle’s cabin.

How many people have been killed or injured by these ARC inflators?

So far, at least two people have been killed in the United States and Canada, while seven others have been injured. One of the two deaths was a mother of 10 who was killed in a minor crash in Michigan in 2021 when the metal inflator fragments hit her neck during the crash. She was driving a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse SUV.

The NHTSA has investigated the ARC airbag inflators for eight years and claims the inflators have a safety defect. In a letter to ARC Automotive Inc., Stephen Ridella, director of NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations, wrote:

“Airbag inflators that project meta fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached airbag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury.”

GM is only one of over a dozen automakers using ARC inflators. Others include Chrysler, Kia, Hyundai, and Volkswagen.

What’s the next step in this GM airbag recall?

Owners of impacted GM SUVs will receive letters and, hopefully, a fix for this problem as soon as one is available. The next step for the NHTSA is to schedule a public hearing and potentially take ARC Automotive Inc. to court to force a recall. This recall might reach similar numbers as the previous Takata airbag recall.

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