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Hyundai, Kia Airbag Failure to Deploy in Crashes Class Action

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2019 Hyundai Sonata

Airbags are supposed to keep drivers and passengers safe. But what happens if the airbag control unit (ACU) is defective? Will anyone know it’s defective until an accident actually occurs? And what if the seatbelt tensioners are also involved? The complaint for this class action alleges that ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. sold faulty ACUs, and that Hyundai Motor America, Inc. and Kia Motor America, Inc. kept putting them in cars and downplayed the serious risks involved, even though they knew better.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons or entities in the US, its territories, and the District of Columbia who bought or leased one of the vehicles at issue in this case. There is also a Tennessee State Class for those in Tennessee.

These are the vehicles at issue in this case:

  • 2013 Kia Forte
  • 2013 Kia Forte Koup
  • 2013-2019 Kia Optima
  • 2012-2016 Optima Hybrid
  • 2014 Kia Sedona
  • 2013-2019 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2013-2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Airbags are intended to protect riders in a car during a crash. To do this, the airbag must deploy quickly. However, the complaint says that the ZF-TRW airbags may not deploy due to electrical overstress (EOS). An EOS occurs when a certain electrical component receives a voltage or current input that is beyond its limit. 

The complaint says, “In effect, it means that this component is overloaded by precisely the electrical signal from a crash sensor that is supposed to trigger airbag (and seatbelt pretensioner) deployment…” 

It quotes the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as saying that the ZF-TRW ACUs “may suffer electrical overstress due to harmful signals (electrical transients) produced by the crash event, causing the unit to stop working during the crash.”

These failures may have killed four people and injured six others. 

The complaint claims that Hyundai and Kia investigated the problems themselves between 2011 and 2015, and met with ZF-TRW between then and 2018, to discuss the problem and get data from the airbag maker. According to the complaint, the companies therefore knew about the defect long ago but concealed it or downplayed its seriousness.

In February 2018, the companies issued recalls for some vehicles, then issued recalls for additional vehicles in April. However, the complaint claims that the recalls “covered only a small portion of” the vehicles involved, it “did not come close to solving the entire problem.” 

In April 2019, NHTSA announced an expansion of its investigation into the defects.

The complaint alleges breaches of warranties and fraudulent concealment, among other things.

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