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Airbags Didn’t Deploy in 6 Head-On Car Crashes, Officials Say

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The Hyundai logo on a Sonata hybrid vehicle.SeongJoon Cho—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating mechanical issues that may affect 425,000 cars after airbags failed to inflate in six separate head-on car crashes, leading to four fatalities.

All of the accidents involved either 2011 Hyundai Sonatas or 2012-2013 Kia Fortes, according to documents posted on the NHTSA’s website Saturday. In each case, airbags failed to deploy during a frontal collision, according to the documents.

The problem, which may affect as many as 425,000 cars made by the sister manufacturers, seems to be related to malfunctions of the computers that control airbag deployment, which are made by ZF-TRW. Hyundai on Feb. 27 recalled 155,000 Sonatas due to airbag issues, and the NHTSA believes Kia used similar ZF-TRW products in its Fortes. Kia has not yet issued a recall.

The NHTSA’s investigation will “evaluate the scope of Hyundai’s recall,” confirm whether Kia is using similar ZF-TRW computers and look into other factors that could have caused airbag malfunctions. In addition, the agency will try to determine if other car makers are using potentially faulty parts made by ZF-TRW.

In a statement, a Hyundai spokesman called the kind of head-on collisions detailed in the report “very unusual,” the Associated Press reports. He added that dealers may offer replacement cars to vehicle owners until the problem is resolved, saying, “We certainly would do everything we can to help our customers.”