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Airbags cited in GM recall
July 13, 1998: 12:32 p.m. ET

Bags on about 800,000 Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Cadillacs inflate needlessly
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - General Motors Corp. is planning to recall nearly 800,000 Chevrolet, Pontiac and Cadillac cars after finding that their air bags may inflate without a crash.
     The recalls apply to 675,302 J model Chevrolets and Pontiacs from 1996 and 1997 in which GM said it discovered "an increased risk of an air bag deployment in a low speed crash or when an object strikes the floor pan."
     An additional 102,627 1995 Cadillac Eldorados, Sevilles and Deville/Concours are being recalled after GM found that air bags can inflate when water seeps onto sensors, triggering an electrical short circuit.
     Notification of the recalls came in separate letters sent by GM to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on May 26 and June 26. The NHTSA is responsible for monitoring automotive recalls.
     Air bags, now mandatory in all U.S. cars, are intended to buffer passengers from a potentially fatal jolt when vehicles crash.
     In recent years, however, oversensitivity in vehicles' sensor system has caused air bags to inflate even when the vehicle simply hit a speed bump or merely brushed the fender of another car. Automakers currently face a host of lawsuits involving alleged failures to fix the problems with air bag deployments.
     The government already has launched probes of eight other models. These include 500,000 1994 Chrysler minivans. One death has been attributed to defective airbag operation, though not in a GM car.
     GM said Monday it began investigating the recalled models in November 1996, after receiving complaints. The automaker, which is currently mired in a crippling month-long strike at two parts plants, said it planned to begin developing a service procedure to recalibrate air bag sensors and diagnostic modules next month.
     In a recent engineering analysis of air bags systems on 500,000 Chrysler minivans from model year 1994 and on 250,000 GM Cadillacs from model years 1995-96, the NHTSA found the bags inflated when water was doused on them or when windows were left open after a rain, allowing water to seep into the interior.
     GM (GM) stock was off 1-3/4 at 69-7/16 in midmorning composite trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.Back to top


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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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