General Motors is recalling 33,000 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in North America, after a lawsuit alerted the company that the car's airbag could rupture and send metal fragments flying toward drivers. In addition, the airbag might not inflate, leaving drivers at heightened risk during a crash.
The recall affects about 29,000 Cruze sedans from model years 2013 and 2014 sold in the United States (another 4,000 were sold in Canada). On Wednesday, GM told dealers to stop selling all Chevrolet Cruzes, then lifted the ban later that day for most of the vehicles once it had determined which cars were at risk. The airbags with the potential defects were made by auto supplier Takata Corp. in Japan.
GM says it learned about the problem through a lawsuit alleging that an airbag in a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze improperly deployed and injured the driver, according to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. GM inspected the vehicle and determined that the front driver airbag inflator was built with an incorrect part, which could cause the airbag to rupture.
The Cruze is GM's top-selling car, with 2014 sales through May up 18 percent from the same period last year.
GM did not specify the lawsuit, but in a lawsuit filed in late April in Atlanta's federal court, Brandi Owens claims she was in stop-and-go traffic in October 2013 when she bumped the car in front of her, causing the airbag of her 2013 Cruze to deploy, according to court documents. The airbag deployed and bumped Owens in the face, causing her left eye to rupture.
“GM and Takata knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that the subject vehicle and the driver’s airbag were defective and unreasonably dangerous to the human body when being so used in a foreseeable manner,” the lawsuit alleges.
Takata and GM are already flooded with other recall problems. Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and several other automakers are issuing recalls for another problem with Takata airbags. They can explode in high humidity, the Monitor reported Monday. About 10 million vehicles with Takata airbags have been recalled globally since 2008.
So far this year, GM has announced 45 recalls involving more than 20 million vehicles worldwide because of various problems, including faulty ignition switches. NHTSA has issued a $35 million fine for GM’s slow response to its ignition switch problem.