Continental Airbag Recall – Failure to Deploy
Up to 5 million automobiles were included in a recall issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2016 for faulty airbags which were manufactured by Continental Automotive Systems. Six car brands were included in the recall which involved airbags that had been manufactured over a 5-year period and installed in automobiles in model years 2008 to 2010.
Automobiles listed in the recall include:
- 2008-2009 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan
- 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan
- 2009 Dodge Journey SUV
- 2008-2010 Honda Accord Sedan
- 2008-2009 Mercedes C Class Sedan
- 2010 Mercedes GLK Class SUV
- 2009 Volkswagen Routan Minivan
Automakers Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and Honda along with airbag manufacturer Continental Automotive Systems and Atmel, maker of electronic components, may be facing thousands of lawsuits filed by consumers whose vehicles were subject to the recall.
The Continental Airbag recall is separate from other airbag scandals such as the Takata airbag recall which has affected 25 million vehicles.
Airbag Control Units Fail
The Continental airbag recall was issued in 2016, several years after a problem had first been discovered in the control unit which is responsible for deployment of the airbag in the event of a crash. The same unit is also responsible for a system which turns the airbag “off” if a low-weight person such as a child is present in the seat affected by the airbag.
In 2008, a Mercedes-Benz owner reported a malfunctioning airbag warning light which would not go off. The faulty airbag was removed, and the unit was sent to the manufacturer, Continental Automotive who examined it and sent it for further testing to Atmel, manufacturer of the electronic control unit.
Atmel’s testing revealed that corrosion of the electronic components could result in interruption of the unit’s power supply which could result in premature or unintended airbag deployment or in failure of the airbag to deploy in a crash. Atmel and Continental then implemented design changes to the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) including replacement of certain semiconductors.
Aside from design changes, neither Continental nor automakers recalled the vehicles at this time and the redesigned unit continued in use until 2010 when a second design change was implemented. No complaints have been reported in airbags manufactured after the second design change.
Manufacturers Knew About Defects
Continental and some auto manufacturers appear to have known of the problems for several years before the first recalls were issued. Documents released by regulators in the U.S. indicate that about 3 million airbag units were manufactured from 2006 to 2008 before the first design change. Between 2008 and 2010, an additional 2 million units were manufactured and installed before the second design change.
In 2011, Continental was informed of two unintended airbag deployments that occurred in Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler automobiles and determined that the malfunction occurred because of corrosion in the control units. In 2013, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) began a service campaign to address concerns of corrosion outside of the U.S. but did not issue a recall or inform American consumers of the issues.
Also, in 2013, Honda became aware of an accident involving a 2008 vehicle and asked for analysis which confirmed corrosion. Though changes in design of the airbag and control unit and analysis that was conducted due to accidents, make it apparent that Continental and several automakers knew of problems with the airbags, no recalls were issued by Continental or automakers until the NHTSA became involved.
In August of 2015, the NHTSA officially opened an investigation of the Continental airbag failures in several vehicles. In October, Daimler Mercedes-Benz recalled 126,000 vehicles, Honda recalled 341, 000 Accords and Fiat Chrysler recalled 112,000 minivans and SUVs, but no full-scale recall was issued until the following year.
Continental Airbag Recalls and Lawsuits
In February of 2016, a recall was issued for all vehicles that had Continental Automotive Airbags manufactured between 2006 and 2010. The recall was estimated to have affected a total of 5 million vehicles, more than 2 million of which had been sold to U.S. Consumers.
Shortly after the recall was issued, a number of lawsuits were filed against Continental Automotive Systems and Continental AG, Atmel Corporation, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler AG, and American Honda and parent company Honda Motors Company.
Lawsuits are seeking compensation for financial losses and risk that may have occurred due to Continental airbag malfunctioning. Anyone who feels that they have been harmed by Continental airbags should seek legal assistance.