TRW Airbag Failure Lawsuits
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded its probe into the ZF-TRW airbag investigation. More than 12 million cars and trucks from six different automakers have airbags that may fail to deploy during a crash. Affected automakers include Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia.
Class action lawsuits are being filed against automakers on behalf of consumers who were potential victims of airbag failures. The lawsuits focus on airbag control units made by a U.S. supplier TRW and German company, ZF Friedrichshafen which acquired TRW in 2015. In addition to automobile manufacturers, TRW and ZF are named as defendants in lawsuits
Lawsuits are claiming that the manufacturers knew of the potential for airbag failures and did not tell consumers of the dangers. Both TRW and the automakers may have known as early as 2011 but many did not warn consumers and continued using the airbags in some new vehicles until the 2019 model year. Lawsuits are seeking compensation on behalf of American consumers claiming that people may have purchased vehicles that they would not have bought, may have paid too much for those vehicles, and may have been placed at risk for bodily injury and even death.
At least 8 deaths and numerous injuries have been linked to failure of TRW airbags and though the defect may have been known as early as 2011, no action was apparently taken until 2016 after at least 4 deaths had been reportedly linked to TRW airbag failures.
In 2016, three automakers acted on some of the reports by recalling some vehicles. Hyundai recalled 155,000 2011 sonata vehicles, Kia recalled 507,000 automobiles and Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.9 million but the airbags had been used in millions of other autos. All three companies however, along with three others apparently continued to use the TRW airbags in new vehicles and did not recall the rest of the affected vehicles.
ZF-TRW Airbag Affected Vehicles
The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently expanded its probe into the TRW airbag issue. The probe may now involve over 12.3 million vehicles from six automakers in model years 2011-2019.
Affected vehicles include:
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TRW Airbag Sensors Malfunction
The NHTSA probe is investigating malfunctions that involve the Airbag Control Units or ACUs which are intended to sense and evaluate whether a crash is significant enough to trigger airbag deployment. The ACUs in TRW airbags contain and electronic component known as an “application specific integrated circuit” or ASIC which monitors and evaluates signals from other sensors around the vehicle.
The ACUs in affected TRW airbags may suffer electrical stress which can damage the ASIC and cause the airbag control units to stop functioning, resulting in failure to deploy. An airbag which does not deploy in a crash can leave automobile passengers unprotected. Failures of the TRW airbag control units have been blamed for multiple injuries including at least 8 deaths.
ZF-TRW Airbag Control Unit Failure
Airbags are intended to protect passengers in the event of an accident. ZF-TRW airbags in certain vehicles have failed to deploy and have left passengers without expected protection during a crash.
ZF-TRW airbags use airbag control units (ACUs) to sense automobile crashes and use incoming information to evaluate whether the airbag should be deployed. The ACUs operate with an electronic component known as an “application specific integrated circuit” or ASIC which monitors signals coming from crash sensors in other parts of the vehicle. The ASIC is the component which helps the airbag control unit to make a decision to deploy.
Testing shows that the ASIC used in affected TRW airbags can become damaged or stop working after electrical overstress results in harmful electrical signals. If the ASIC becomes damaged, it may cause the ACU to fail to properly deploy an airbag in the event of a crash. Airbag failure may leave automobile passengers unprotected and at risk of bodily harm or death. At least 8 deaths have been linked to failure of TRW airbags.
In April 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that its probe into the ZF-TRW airbag malfunction has been expanded. The probe now includes six different auto companies and involves an estimated 12.3 million vehicles.
The automakers and airbag supplier may have known about the malfunctioning units as early as 2011 but no action was taken until 2016 when recalls were issued including 155,000 2011 Hyundai Sonata vehicles, 507,000 Kia automobiles and 1.9 million Fiat Chrysler automobiles. The NHTSA investigation and 2016 recalls were issued after at least 4 deaths and multiple injuries had been attributed to TRW airbag failures. Since those recalls, the number of lives lost due to TRW airbag malfunctions has been raised to eight.
Even after the 2016 recalls, automakers continued to use the faulty units in new cars and trucks. The NHTSA probe, which was expanded after two frontal crashes involving Toyota vehicles resulted in additional deaths. The probe now includes 12.3 million 2009 to 2019 model year cars and trucks from six automakers.
This airbag issue is separate from other recent airbag failure news in which 56 million faulty Takata airbags may be at risk of exploding or deploying without cause.
Filing a TRW Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of consumers who have been affected by the TRW airbag failure. Lawsuits claim that both the airbag manufacturers ZF and TRW, and the automakers Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia are liable for damages caused by the airbag scandal. Mitsubishi has not yet been named as a defendant but the company did make several automobiles using ZF-TRW airbags and has been named in the NHTSA probe. As the probe has expanded several times, more automobiles may be added to both the NHTSA concern list and to the lawsuits.
This airbag issue is completely separate and different from recent news about exploding airbags made by another company, Takata, which has involved more than 56 million faulty airbags.
The TRW lawsuits claim that manufacturers continued to sell automobiles using defective parts which could result in financial loss, bodily injury and death. Lawsuits are seeking financial compensation for damages, penalties and relief. Consumers who have been injured or who believe they have been affected due to defective ZF-TRW airbags in named automobiles should seek legal advice.