Continental says five million vehicles worldwide may have faulty air bags

WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Continental Automotive Systems said on Thursday it supplied potentially defective air bag control units to 5 million vehicles used by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and three other manufacturers built over a five-year period worldwide, widening an air bag safety crisis.Continental Automotive, a unit of Germany-based Continental AG CONG.DE, told the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that electronic systems built from 2006 through 2010 and used in 5 million vehicles may fail and air bags may not deploy in a crash or may inadvertently deploy without warning.

A new Honda Accord Tourer car is displayed during the second media day of the 78th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Continental spokeswoman Mary Arraf said the recall involved between 1.5 million and 2 million vehicles in the United States.

Honda Motor Co 7267.THMC.N said it is recalling 341,000 Accord models from 2008-2010 to replace control units linked to failures in Continental systems. At least two injuries are attributed to the defect.

Honda said it has received 1,575 warranty claims, 83 field reports and two confirmed injuries related to the defect. It also said there have been 74 injury allegations related to airbags that did not deploy but those are not confirmed.

In one case, a parent in Belleview, Florida, filed a complaint that their son was injured driving their 2008 Accord last March after running into a concrete block wall at about 50 mph (80 kph) and the airbags failed to deploy, according to NHTSA records.

Honda told its dealers that replacement parts are in very short supply and can only be ordered for vehicles with crash damage or with airbag issues. Honda will not have enough parts for replacement for all vehicles until autumn.

Fiat Chrysler FCHA.MIFCAU.N said it is recalling 112,000 U.S. vehicles for the same issue, including the 2009 Dodge Journey, 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country and 2009 Volkswagen Routan that it had assembled for the German automaker.

Fiat Chrysler has reports of as many as 25 inadvertent air bag deployments.

Continental told the NHTSA the callback would also involve vehicles built by Volvo Trucks North America and Mazda Motor Corp 7261.T.

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Mazda was aware of Continental’s recall and investigating and VW did not know how many Chrysler-built Routan minivans are involved, according to company spokespeople.

The other manufacturers could not be reached immediately.


This is the latest large-scale U.S. recall related to air bag problems.

To date, 14 automakers have recalled about 25 million vehicles for air bag inflators made by Takata Corp 7312.T that could rupture, emitting potentially deadly metal fragments. They are linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries.

NHTSA said tens of millions of other vehicles with Takata airbags will likely need to be recalled eventually.

Earlier this week, Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T said it was recalling 320,000 2003-2006 U.S. vehicles because of improper programming that could allow them to deploy when not necessary.

Regulators have increased their attention after General Motors Co GM.N delayed the recall of 2.6 million older Cobalt and other cars in 2014 linked to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries for faulty ignition switches that prevented air bags from deploying in some serious crashes.

The latest Continental recall developed over years.

Continental said in documents filed with U.S. regulators it received a control unit from Daimler in January 2008 after a vehicle owner complained the air bag warning light had illuminated. An investigation found a problem with the control unit that led to a design change in a semiconductor in 2008.

Continental said it built 3 million units from 2006 until the design change and 2 million after it that are covered by the recall. It did not receive any complaints after another change was made at the end of 2010 and completed in 2011.

NHTSA opened an investigation in August after a complaint of a crash in a 2008 Accord in which the air bags did not deploy.

In October, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz USA unit recalled 126,000 C-Class 2008-2009 models and certain 2010 GLK-Class vehicles to address the issue.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Susan Heavey, Jeffrey Benkoe and Marguerita Choy