USA investigates air bag failures in fatal Hyundai, Kia auto crashes

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Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes, four people are dead, and the USA government's road safety agency wants to know why that's the case.

All of the accidents involved either 2011 Hyundai Sonatas or 2012-2013 Kia Fortes, according to documents posted on the NHTSA's website Saturday.

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is now aware of six crashes with significant collision related damage events involving Hyundai and Kia models where air bags failed to deploy in frontal crashes. Trainor stated the automaker is collaborating with NHTSA in the investigation, and that it has not observed any concerns with any vehicle except from the 2011 Sonata.

The NHTSA reports it is aware of four deaths, six injuries and six front-end crashes with heavy damage related to the recall in its report. A spokesperson for Kia could not be reached for comment.

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Jim Trainor, Hyundai spokesman, told the news organization that "it's very unusual to have that kind of collision".

The problem has been traced to circuit shorts in air bag control computers.

NHTSA said it understands that the Kia Fortes under investigation use similar air bag control computers made by ZF-TRW.

The agency said the airbag control module was built by ZF Friedrichshafen-TRW, a German auto supplier that acquired TRW Automotive Holdings Corp in 2015. Additionally, ODI is aware of a prior recall, 16V-688 where EOS appeared to be a root cause of air bag non-deployment in significant frontal crashes in certain Fiat Chrysler vehicles.

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Four of the crashes in question involved Hyundai vehicles and two of the crashes involved Kia vehicles, the document states.

NHTSA said it believed that the 2012-2013 Forte cars also use similar airbag control units supplied by ZF-TRW.

In May of previous year, NHTSA opened an investigation into whether Hyundai and Kia moved quickly enough to recall more than 1.6 million cars and SUVs because the engines can stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

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