DETROIT – The U.S. government’s highway safety agency has decided to seek further information from General Motors about air bag failures in some Chevrolet Impala full-size cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an inquiry into the issue after receiving a petition from Donald Friedman of Xprts LLC, a Santa Barbara, California, company that examines crashes.
Friedman examined an April 2011 car crash in Hidalgo County, Texas, that severely injured an elderly man named Roberto Martinez. His wife, Aurora, was driving their 2008 Impala when it was hit by an SUV and forced into a concrete highway divider and a fixed barrier in front of the car. The passenger air bags didn’t deploy, and Roberto suffered permanent brain injuries, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple against GM. He died about 10 months later.
Friedman alleges that because Roberto Martinez was bounced around during the incident, the weight sensor in the passenger seat misread his weight and didn’t fire the air bag. The air bag is supposed to inflate for anyone other than a child or small adult.
The petition says GM used the same system in other models from 2004 through 2010. The inquiry covers about 320,000 Impalas from the 2007-2009 model years. Friedman says the cars should be recalled and the computers reprogrammed.
• Safety regulators are investigating whether an electrical problem can knock out the air bags on some older Hyundai Sonatas. The probe announced Friday covers about 394,000 midsize cars from the 2006 through 2008 model years.
• The U.S. government’s road safety agency is investigating complaints about engine stalling and alternator failures in Dodge Charger sedans. The probe covers about 123,000 Chargers from the 2011 and 2012 model years.