United States investigates air bag failures in fatal Hyundai, Kia vehicle crashes

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating into problems that affected an estimated 425,000 vehicles made by Hyundai and Kia after failing to inflate air bags in crashes that killed four people.

In documents posted on its website, the safety agency says the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts.

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is now aware of six crashes with significant collision related damage events involving Hyundai and Kia models where air bags failed to deploy in frontal crashes.

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The NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation will be looking into whether the scope of Hyundai's recall was appropriate, whether the Kia vehicles in question in fact used the same or similar air bag control units and what led the air bag control units to malfunction. A spokesperson for Kia could not be reached for comment.

Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor stated the South Korean automaker is knowledgeable of reports of two deaths in its vehicles, which he stated took place in head-on collisions at significantly high rates of speed. "It's very unusual to have that kind of collision", he said Saturday.

The agency stated the air bag control module was constructed by ZF Friedrichshafen-TRW.

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According to NHTSA, Hyundai investigated and found the problem was "electrical overstress" in the computers.

Four of the crashes in question involved Hyundai vehicles and two of the crashes involved Kia vehicles, the document states. It also added it will figure out if any other automakers have utilized similar air bag control units and if they posed a safety threat.

In May of past year, NHTSA opened an investigation into whether Hyundai and Kia moved quickly enough to recall more than 1.6 million cars and SUVs because the engines can stall, increasing the risk of a crash. The agency noted a 2016 recall involving more than 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler cars and SUVs that had a similar problem causing the air bags not to deploy.

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