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Safety Agency Investigating Some Air Bags

February 24, 1998|From Associated Press

A government safety agency is investigating the air-bag systems on 780,000 General Motors cars and 375,000 Chrysler vehicles after receiving nearly 200 complaints that the safety devices opened inadvertently.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has gotten 194 consumer complaints that air bags deployed while motorists were simply driving or when a car tire hit a pothole, debris or a curb, according to a government report released Monday.

The cars under investigation are Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires built by GM in the 1996 and 1997 model years and Dodge and Plymouth Neons built by Chrysler in model year 1995.

"We're cooperating fully with the investigation," said GM spokeswoman Mia Kelly.

The report cited 98 consumer complaints that the Neon air bags deployed unnecessarily, allegedly causing 13 crashes in which 28 people were injured. It reported 96 complaints of the Cavalier and Sunfire air bags inadvertently deploying, causing 10 crashes and 53 injuries.

In most of the cases involving Cavaliers and Sunfires, the report said the cars "were being driven normally over paved roads at various speeds when the air bags deployed."

In the Neons, 43 of the reported incidents involved simply driving, while in 55 cases, the vehicle hit a curb, a pothole or a road bump.

The agency also is investigating complaints of air bags deploying without being triggered by a crash involving several models of Subaru, Mazda and Volvo, as well as other GM cars and some Chrysler minivans.

The other GM autos include the 1996 Chevrolet Lumina, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. About 396,000 of those vehicles are on the road.

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