Software Screwup Forces Nissan to Recall Almost 1M Vehicles

Nissan Altima

While General Motors continues to dredge through numerous investigations into its defective ignition cylinder recall that could cause the disablement of airbags, Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY.PK) has issued nearly 1 million vehicles for a software glitch that could inadvertently deactivate airbags.

The 989,701 vehicles, which include some new Altima sedans, are all located in North America. According to Nissan’s filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the software may classify the passenger seat as empty despite being occupied by an adult, therefore disabling the airbag on that side of the car. This may naturally result in a failure of the airbag to deploy during a crash and could increase the risk of injury to the passenger, Bloomberg quoted the filing as saying.

So far — and to Nissan’s credit — no injuries or deaths have been reported as a result of the defect. In addition to the Altima, Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the recall also affects the 2014 Infiniti Q50 sedan and QX60 crossover, the 2013 and 2014 Pathfinder SUV, the Leaf electric car, and the Sentra compact sedan.

This makes for at least the second major recall for Nissan since September, when the company announced that it would be reeling in 910,000 vehicles globally, including the Serena minivan and X-Trail SUV, due to an accelerator problem. That recall was part of the reason the company cut its profit forecast by 15 percent in the year ending March 31, Bloomberg reports.

Nissan Pathfinder

There seem to be two significant causes behind most recalls these days, aside from the obvious faulty part problem. Software, like Nissan’s current issue, has become an increasingly problematic force as cars rely more and more on computers to take over basic functions that were once left to the driver.

Further, larger-volume production has led to greater problems with larger scopes, and as automakers continuously increase their output to supply the demand, faulty components or glitches present a far larger problem as the speed and rate of production grow. This could be seen with General Motors’ current airbag and ignition problems and with Honda’s  current Odyssey recall for a defective fuel pump cover — by the time the problem was identified, nearly 900,000 units had been produced and sold.

In Nissan’s case, all that’s required is a software update, a positive side of the growing use of computer functions within cars. The updates will naturally be free of charge; Nissan will begin alerting owners in April.