308,000 SUVs recalled by Toyota for defective airbags

Toyota announced last week that the company is recalling 214,000 RAV4s from the 2007-8 model years and 94,000 Highlander and Highlander Hybrids from the 2008 model year. The automaker has decided to recall the vehicles for defective airbags that could potentially injure passengers and drivers.

Although the recall was just announced last week, Toyota first discovered a problem with some of its models’ airbags in 2007. The vehicles recalled last week all have an airbag mounted in the roof of the vehicle near the vehicle’s side windows. The airbags are supposed to deploy in the event of a side-impact crash or rollover in order to protect front and rear-seat passengers. However, a short circuit in two of the airbag’s sensors caused some airbags in the vehicles to deploy for no reason. Toyota claimed that the issue was fixed in 2008, but several consumers continued to complain about the problem.

Toyota believed that the problem did not initially require a recall since there was a very small chance that both of the airbag’s sensors would have short circuits at the same time. The automaker also explained that a warning light would turn on in the vehicle if one of the sensors had a problem. The warning light would then prompt owners to take their vehicles in to a dealer in order to fix the problem.

However, several complaints were made explaining that the airbags had suddenly deployed without the vehicle being involved in a crash. Other owners who noticed the warning light had taken their vehicles in to get fixed but the dealers could not identify a problem. “Every time I brought [my vehicle] in the mechanic would run a test and say it was just a glitch in the system,” said the owner of a RAV4.

The automaker finally issued the recall last week after one consumer reported that a sudden airbag deployment had caused minor injuries.

Although airbags have been proven to save lives, a defective airbag could cause injuries or even death. It is important that automakers design safe products and auto parts in order to protect their consumers, but it is also important that automakers address safety concerns in a timely matter before putting the lives of others at risk.

Source:The New York Times: “Toyota Recalls 308,000 RAV4 and Highlanders for Faulty Air-Bag Sensors,” Christopher Jensen, 22 Apr. 2011