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Lawsuit accuses three automakers and parts maker in air bag case

UPDATED: Tue., May 24, 2022

The ARC Automotive manufacturing plant is shown on July 14, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn.   (Associated Press )
The ARC Automotive manufacturing plant is shown on July 14, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn.  (Associated Press )
By Tom Krisher Associated Press Associated Press

DETROIT – A class action lawsuit is accusing three automakers and a parts manufacturer of knowingly selling vehicles containing air bag inflators that are at risk of exploding. Two deaths and at least four injuries have been linked to such explosions.

The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco, names ARC Automotive Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, which made the inflators and sold them to air bag manufacturers.

The air bag makers, in turn, sold them to General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen, which are named in the lawsuit, too.

The five plaintiffs are the owners of vehicles with ARC inflators who contend the defective air bag parts were not disclosed when they made their purchases.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been investigating ARC inflators for nearly seven years without a resolution, estimates that there are 51 million on U.S. roads. That’s somewhere between 10% and 20% of all passenger vehicles.

Yet most drivers have no conclusive way to determine whether their vehicle contains an ARC inflator.

Even if they were to tear apart the steering wheel assembly, the internal parts might bear the markings only of the automaker or the air bag manufacturer, not the inflator maker.

“You could have a ticking time bomb in your lap and you’ve got no way of knowing,” said Frank Melton, a Florida lawyer who is among those filing the new lawsuit.

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