The National Highway Traffic Safety Association has stepped up its investigation into issues with weight sensors that could deactivate passenger-side air bags in nearly a million Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. The agency also opened a probe into similar problems in about 190,000 Kias. The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation launched a probe on Sept. 1 into the issue potentially affecting 186,000 Kia Spectras from 2007 to 2009 and escalated an investigation into the problem in up to 986,826 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles of eight different models from 2013 and 2014.
NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation into the reported problem with the Spectra sensor mats inside the passenger-side seats, which use weight to determine whether or not the front passenger seat is occupied by an adult and turns the air bag on and off accordingly. The agency on the same day said it would probe the effectiveness of Nissan’s fix for vehicles’ “occupant classification system,” which fulfills a similar purpose. The agency upgraded its previous recall query into an engineering analysis to probe the issue after it continued to receive complaints. NHTSA has previously said it received complaints that the recall software update didn’t fix the problem.
There have now been 1,271 complaints by Nissan and Infiniti owners, including two reports of crashes and one report of injury. NHTSA had opened the investigation on March 18 to determine the effectiveness of software updates offered by Nissan to address the issue affecting air bag sensors in certain models of Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra, NV 200 and LEAF, as well as Infiniti QX60 and Q50. Nissan reported last year that the sensors in some owners’ vehicles mistakenly identify adult passengers as either children or empty seats and deactivate the frontal air bag. Nissan recalled about 990,000 vehicles in the U.S. as part of its April 2014 recall, but the owners’ complaints said the sensor defect still appeared after the software update.
NHTSA said it has received 43 complaints involving the Kia Spectras, including many in which drivers said the glitch had occurred after the warranty period and required costly fixes that deterred them from getting the repair.
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