The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is scrutinizing two small GM driver’s-side airbag recalls to see if the number of vehicles with the safety defect where the airbag doesn’t deploy during a crash should be expanded from 7,000 to more than 400,000 2012 models. NHTSA prompted earlier recalls of 2012 Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic and Camaro, and Buick Verano vehicles (NHTSA recalls 12V-522 and 13V-023), but the safety agency is now reconsidering whether GM’s root cause analysis covered enough of the potentially defective or unsafe vehicles.
Automakers of course have an incentive to limit the number of vehicles recalled because of both the expense and damage to their reputations. In its most notorious recent demonstration of this phenomenon, Toyota executives in Japan covered up years of unintended acceleration complaints on U.S. vehicles until the public outcry – and a growing body of data that include dead bodies – forced NHTSA to enforce U.S. safety regulations. However, this was revealed during Congressional public hearings where NHTSA with justification in the Toyota case was called the “lapdog” of the auto industry. This embarrassment of NHTSA bureaucrats, some of whom worked for Toyota before joining the safety agency, and then ignored the growing problem, has put NHTSA and all automakers under ongoing intense scrutiny. The lingering “Toyota effect” as AutoInformed has repeatedly pointed out is seeing automakers recalling vehicles where there are no, repeat no, accidents, injuries or even incidents.
In the current airbag matter, GM previously asserted that it conducted an investigation of warranty claim data, including a review of claim rates by the air bag inflator build date.However, in a public filing, NHTSA said it appears that a production issue (the alleged root cause) was not fully identified, particularly for the second GM recall.
A so-called Recall Query has now been opened by NHTSA to investigate whether or not the scope of the GM vehicles included in recalls 12V-522 and 13V-023 is sufficient.