General Motors said Friday is recalling nearly 1 million sport utility vehicles amid a push by federal regulators to recall 67 million defective air bag inflators that could explode during deployment.
The GM recall includes a total of 994,763 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia vehicles from the 2014 through 2017 model years with air bag parts produced by ARC Automotive. Affected drivers can have the driver's air-bag module replaced for free, according to the automaker.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging the maker of the air bag inflator, Knoxville, Tennessee-based ARC, to recall 67 million devices manufactured before 2018 because they can explode and spray shrapnel around a vehicle.
At least nine air bag-related incidents that occurred between 2009 and March of this year have resulted in two deaths and multiple severe injuries, NHTSA said in a letter to ARC released Friday. One driver in Canada and another in Michigan were killed by an exploding inflator in the driver-side air bag, according to the agency.
After an eight-year investigation, NHTSA has "tentatively concluded" that the air bag inflators are defective and is calling on ARC to issue a recall.
"Air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached air bag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury," regulators write, noting that air bags — when working properly — are "designed to save lives."
At least 12 auto manufacturers have used the ARC components in their air bags, NHTSA said, and the recall could affect nearly a quarter of the vehicles currently on U.S. roadways, according to the Associated Press.
However, ARC is pushing back on regulators' demands. In a May 11 letter, the company denied its products are defective and said that any problems with air bags "resulted from random 'one-off' manufacturing anomalies that were properly addressed" with individual recalls.
The response sets up a potential legal battle. The next step in the process is for NHTSA to schedule a public hearing, according to the AP. It could then take the company to court to force a recall.
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