Automotive recalls are never fun for vehicle owners and automaker. Auto engineers are constantly testing and refining their technologies, and from time to time problems are discovered which force manufacturers to recall vehicles so that these issues can be fixed. In some cases, these recalls are prompted by serious safety concerns which become apparent after unfortunate or deadly accidents caused by misbehaving equipment. The latest major recall comes by way of Korean automaker Kia who has just announced a recall affecting more than 500,000 vehicles in the United States due to faulty airbags. Will this hurt Kia’s reputation in the long run?
Kia’s latest recall was prompted by an investigation opened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) earlier this year. The NHTSA became suspicious of six different crash reports in which four people died and six were injured when Kia airbags failed to deploy. NHTSA documents state that airbag control computers installed in several Kia models can develop a short circuit which prevents the vehicles’ airbags from deploying in the event of a crash.
Affected Kia models include the 2010 through 2013 Forte, 2011 through 2013 Optima and Optima Hybrid, and 2011 through 2012 Sedona minivans. Kia is currently working on a fix and plans to notify owners by July 27. The German auto parts-maker ZF Friedrichshafen designed and manufactured the airbag computers, but claims that they were designed to Kia’s specifications.
The recall builds on a previous one issued by Hyundai, another Korean automaker which owns a significant stake in Kia Motors. 2011 through 2013 Hyundai Sonata and Sonata Hybrids feature the same airbag computers used in the recalled Kia models. Both Hyundai and Kia said they will offer owners loaner vehicles to owners who do not wish to drive their vehicles in the meantime. Last year, a separate NHTSA investigation led to more than 1.6 million Kia and Hyundai vehicles being recalled due to engine stalling issues which contributed to dozens of accidents.