Chrysler Group LLC has recalled nearly 25,000 model year 2014-15 Fiat 500L vehicles because the knee air bags, which protect the driver’s legs if the petite car gets into an accident, may not deploy if the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt. The automaker notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the recall in a July 30 report after finding that irregularities in the folding process during assembly of the driver’s knee air bag might result in improper deployment. If the knee air bag doesn’t deploy, there is an increased risk to driver safety, the agency said.
The recall pertains to 25,483 of the Fiat 500L models in the U.S. manufactured between March 3, 2012 and July 25, 2014. The automaker said in its July statement that the recall also includes 4,000 models in Canada. The issue was discovered in June when the NHTSA conducted an 25 mile-per-hour crash test on a “fifth percentile female” not wearing a seat belt in a 2014 model year Fiat 500L at a research facility. The test showed that the driver right femur load didn’t meet the minimum injury criteria, prompting the automaker to launch an investigation into the issue.
In early July, Chrysler learned that Fiat Group Automotive tested a 2015 model year Fiat 500L and discovered a similar driver’s knee air bag deployment as the NHTSA’s testing. Fiat and air bag manufacturer TRW Polska Sp. z o.o.’s analysis found that inconsistencies in the driver’s knee air bag manual folding process could result in variations in the deployment of the knee air bag. TRW updated the manual folding process of the air bag July 16, with Chrysler’s investigation establishing which vehicles might have been affected by the folding problem by the end of the month.
Chrysler said that it isn’t aware of any injuries stemming from the issue but that it is conducting a safety recall of cars potentially affected by the issue. The automaker was to start notifying car owners of the problem in September. Dealers will replace the driver’s knee air bag free of charge.
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