The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered U.S. based airbag manufacturer ARC Automotive, Inc. to recall more than 67 million airbag inflators. However, in a marked departure from normal proceedings, ARC Automotive has refused the regulator’s request.
Airbags produced by ARC are used in a wide variety of vehicles, including General Motors (GM), Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and more. In fact, GM has agreed to recall nearly a million vehicles because of faults with ARC airbags after one exploded in a crash and caused serious facial injuries to the driver.
As such, there are potential thousands more defective airbags among the 67 million the NHTSA has ordered the company to recall. Despite this, ARC is refusing to comply with the federal agency’s order. Here’s what this may mean for car owners in California.
Why the Airbag Maker Refuses to Comply With the Recall Order
ARC has been under investigation by the NHTSA since 2016. That was when the agency upgraded a probe into approximately 8 million of the company’s airbags to cover a much larger population of potentially defective parts.
After more than seven years of inquiry, the NHTSA determined that at least two fatalities and multiple injuries can be linked to the company’s airbags. Specifically, it has “tentatively” determined that affected airbags include faulty inflators, which may rupture during crashes. When they rupture, they propel metal fragments into the vehicle and may cause potentially serious or fatal injuries to the occupants. Furthermore, these ruptures prevent the airbags from properly inflating, so they fail to protect passengers appropriately.
In a masterful example of understatement, the NHTSA informed ARC that “air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached airbag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury.” As per federal safety regulations, the NHTSA ordered the company to recall the inflators, which were manufactured between 2000 and 2018.
However, ARC has refused to comply with the agency’s order. The company argues that “extensive field testing has found no inherent defect.” Instead, it claims that the injuries and deaths associated with its airbag inflators are “isolated manufacturing issues.” As such, ARC argues that it should not be legally required to recall such a large quantity of parts.
While this is uncommon, it is not illegal. Initial recall orders from the NHTSA are not legally binding. Instead, they are serious recommendations issued according to the agency’s best judgment. However, there are other avenues the regulating body may use to prevent companies from disregarding consumer safety.
Should ARC continue to refuse the NHTSA’s order, the agency will schedule a public hearing about the matter. Depending on the outcome of this hearing, it may take the company to court and force a recall. Should this happen, ARC will no longer be able to refuse issuing a recall without facing serious financial and legal penalties.
Are Faulty Parts Grounds for Lemon Claims?
The possible ARC airbag recall raises some interesting questions for consumer. One such question is simple: are manufacturers responsible for faulty parts in their vehicles? If so, can these lead to lemon claims?
The answer is yes, they are, and yes, they can. While cars with faulty ARC airbag inflators are no longer eligible for lemon claims due to age, faulty components can be grounds for warranty claims under California law.
This is due to how warranty laws apply to consumer purchases. When you buy a brand-new car, it must legally come with a manufacturer warranty. This warranty covers the car as a whole. You may also purchase additional warranties that cover specific parts, such as extended powertrain or battery coverage. However, the basic manufacturer warranty treats the car as a single unit.
Under these warranties, carmakers accept responsibility for the safety and utility of their vehicles and all their components. They do not separate out specific items like “airbags” or “electrical systems” from the rest of the vehicle.
If anything goes wrong with any part of the vehicle while it is still under warranty, the manufacturer has the responsibility to fix it, regardless of whether it is directly responsible for the fault. For instance, most carmakers source microchips from other companies, but they are still responsible if those microchips fail and prevent cars from starting.
As such, faulty components are absolutely grounds for lemon law claims in California. Examples of component problems that could make your vehicle a lemon include:
- Airbags that randomly deploy due to faulty sensors
- Microchips that can corrode, preventing the vehicle’s automated driver assistance features from working
- Incorrectly manufactured driveshafts that cause the vehicle to call out of gear
- Engines that are prone to oil leaks, causing fire risks
- Mufflers that fail to meet emissions standards as required by the state
In each of these cases, the manufacturer may not have been directly responsible for the flawed part. However, it installed the part in your car and sold it to you with a warranty. As such, it is obligated under California lemon laws to repair, replace, or refund your vehicle if it meets the other criteria for a claim.
Talk to the Experts About Your Potential Lemon
Faulty components can be grounds for a lemon claim if your vehicle is still under warranty. If you suspect your car may be a lemon, don’t wait for NHTSA investigations to finish or federal recalls to be ordered. These federal vehicle investigations can take years to complete, by which time your car may no longer be eligible under California lemon laws. Instead, talk to the experts at Johnson & Buxton – The Lemon Law Guys. We have spent time on both sides of lemon law claims, so we can tell you everything you need to know about whether you have a case. Schedule your consultation today to discuss whether a faulty airbag or other part may make you eligible to file a lemon claim today.