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Company says it can’t say for sure whether more air-bag inflators might explode and hurl shrapnel

DETROIT (AP) – A company that makes air-bag inflators that have exploded in eight incidents involving two deaths and seven injuries argued on Tuesday that it can’t say for sure whether its inflators might cause further such incidents.

In a reply to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the company, ARC Automotive of Knoxville, Tennessee, United States said that even adhering to industry quality standards cannot fully eliminate the risk of occasional failures in which the air-bag inflators might explode and spew shrapnel.

NHTSA has demanded that ARC recall 67 million inflators in driver and passenger front air bags from at least a dozen automakers. Neither ARC nor the auto industry has released a full list of vehicle models with the kind of air bag inflators that have exploded. But at least 33 million vehicles on the road are believed to contain them. ARC has refused to issue a full-scale recall, setting the stage for a possible court fight. The company maintains that no safety defect exists, that NHTSA’s demand is based on a hypothesis rather than technical conclusions and that the agency has no authority to order a parts manufacturer to announce recalls.

Owners of vehicles made by at least a dozen automakers – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Ford, Toyota, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Hyundai and Kia – are left to wonder anxiously whether their vehicles contain driver or front passenger inflators made by ARC.

Because ARC supplies inflators that are included in other manufacturers’ airbags, there’s no easy way for vehicle owners to determine whether their inflators are made by ARC.

The ARC Automotive manufacturing plant in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. PHOTO: AP