ARC Airbags: Defective and Dangerous

The Hidden Dangers of ARC Airbags

Since Henry Ford first made motor vehicles accessible to the average consumer near the beginning of the twentieth century, the automotive industry has undertaken a series of initiatives—sometimes voluntarily and oftentimes kicking and screaming—to improve automobile safety. Seat belts protect drivers and passengers from harmful movement within, or ejection from, a vehicle during a crash. Anti-lock brakes prevent skidding and loss of control during hard braking. Airbags restrain movement and cushion against impacts with harder surfaces. When designed and manufactured properly, these safety innovations save lives and protect against serious injuries. Unfortunately, automotive safety devices are not always properly designed and manufactured. Sometimes the very features intended to keep us safe pose the greatest dangers of all.

Exploding Inflators and Tragic Consequences

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) began an investigation into the dangers posed by airbag inflators manufactured by ARC Automotive, Inc. Dating back to 2009, a pattern has emerged of ARC airbag inflators exploding during deployment. When an airbag deploys, it must do so quickly. Metal airbag inflators are designed to rapidly release gas to inflate the airbag in time to catch vehicle occupants during a collision. ARC’s inflators have been found to over-pressurize and explode during deployment. When this happens, metal shrapnel is projected at high velocity throughout the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Such explosions can turn minor accidents into tragedies. Since 2009, ARC airbag inflators have caused a series of devastating injuries, disfigurements, and deaths.[1]

Vehicles Affected by Airbag Explosions

These defective and dangerous airbags are not confined to one make or model of vehicle. Instead, airbag explosions have occurred in vehicles manufactured by General Motors, Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, and Chrysler.[2] NHTSA found that through January 2018, ARC had put 67 million of the subject inflators onto the market.[3] To date, automotive manufacturers including BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Volkswagen have initiated a series of small-scale recalls of airbags containing ARC inflators.[4] Most recently, GM initiated a larger recall, affecting nearly one million vehicles.[5] However, despite these manufacturer recalls, tens of millions of ARC inflators remain on our streets.

NHTSA Orders Arc Airbag Inflator Recall

In May of 2023, NHTSA wrote to ARC directly, demanding that they recall the defective airbag inflators:

The subject inflators pose an unreasonable risk of death or injury that may result from an item of motor vehicle equipment that, when not defective, is designed to save lives. Air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached air bag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury. Accordingly, the Agency makes this demand that ARC immediately submit to NHTSA a Part 573 Recall Report that identifies a safety defect in the subject driver and passenger air bag inflators.[6]

ARC responded to NHTSA by declining to carry out the ordered recall, arguing that NHTSA did not have authority to compel it to conduct a recall.[7] As of the date of this writing, ARC has failed to carry out the demanded recall.

Do I have an ARC Airbag Inflator Lawsuit?

Airbags should save lives and protect against serious injuries. They should not kill and maim the people they are supposed to keep safe. Our attorneys are already hard at work to hold ARC accountable. If you have been injured by one of these defective airbags, please give us a call so we can fight for you too.


[1] Letter from Stephen Ridella, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA to Steve Gold, Vice President of Product Integrity, ARC (“NHTSA Letter”).

[2] NHTSA Letter, pgs. 4-5.

[3] NHTSA Letter, pg. 1.

[4] NHTSA Letter, pg. 3.

[5], accessed May 24, 2023.

[6] NHTSA Letter, pg. 5.

[7] Letter from Steve Gold, Vice President of Product Integrity, ARC, to Stephen Ridella, Director of Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, dated May 11, 2023, pgs. 8-11.