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U.S. Elevates Inquiry on Air Bags in Ford SUVs

September 04, 2002|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday that it has stepped up an investigation of air bags on almost 223,000 Ford Motor Co. 2002 model Explorer and Mountaineer sport utility vehicles that may not work because of a wiring problem.

Regulators also opened an inquiry on 204,000 BMWs after reports of 41 injuries from side air bags deploying without a crash, a problem the German car maker has tried to address in two recalls.

The Ford investigation centers on air bags in the steering wheels of the sport utilities built before Sept. 4, 2001. The bags may have improperly installed wiring because the steering wheel and shaft were turned during assembly, according to NHSTA. The agency said Ford has received 486 warranty claims, with no reports of accidents or injuries. Ford is cooperating with the agency, company spokesman Todd Nissen said.

In the BMW probe, regulators are looking at 3-Series vehicles built from April 1999 to April 2001. It said its records and others from BMW show 265 complaints of side air bags that could deploy if the vehicles were driven over potholes or curbs. BMW also reported 212 warranty claims for side air bags.

NHTSA said the 41 injuries were mostly cuts and bruises. There have been no reports of deaths.

BMW spokesman Dave Buchko said Tuesday that he could not confirm NHTSA's tally of injury reports.

Also Tuesday, NHTSA said it had intensified an investigation of 2001 Kia Rio cars after reports of one death and 26 injuries linked to air bags failing to deploy in a crash.

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